Gunman who left man paralyzed sentenced to 30 years

Gunman who left man paralyzed sentenced to 30 years
Scott Bell, left, standing
Scott Bell, left, standing
Teresita Lapitan
Teresita Lapitan

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

HONOLULU (HAWAIINEWSNOW) - It was an emotional sentencing in court as a young man, who's now confined to a wheelchair, came face to face with the teen who shot him.

The 19-year-old gunman faces more time in prison than years he's been alive. The shooting happened during a home invasion in Aliamanu last year.

Timothy Lapitan's mother says she won't be happy until her son is able to walk again. On Monday, the teen who caused his paralysis received consecutive prison terms totaling 30 years.

Before his sentencing hearing even begins, Nicholas Nichols breaks down in tears. Fourteen months ago, he shot Timothy Lapitan, leaving the young man with a promising future paralyzed from the waist down.

"He was employed, entertained thoughts of a military career. His future was indeed bright," Scott Bell, deputy prosecutor, said. "But because of the defendant's criminal conduct, his life, meaning Timothy's, is changed."

Prosecutors say Nichols and four others put on masks, stormed into a Hulakai Drive home and ordered everyone to get on the floor. Lapitan fought back to protect his family and took a bullet to the abdomen.

"Look at what happened to my son," Teresita Lapitan, shooting victim's mother, said through tears. "I begged you that day. I said don't do that, but you kept doing it."

Originally charged with attempted murder, Nichols pleaded guilty to the reduced charge of assault, as well as burglary, kidnapping, robbery and firearms offenses. The 19-year-old apologizes to his victim and calls him a hero.

"I honestly don't know if I would have done the same thing that you did that day. That shows bravery and courage," Nichols said. "It should be me sitting in that wheelchair and not someone who was just protecting his family."

The judge sentenced Nichols to 20 years in prison for the home invasion and 10 years for two earlier assaults. He must serve the terms one after the other.

"I totally feel him," Timothy Lapitan, shooting victim, said. "I don't know how it feels to know that I'm going to spend the next half of my life in jail, you know what I mean, and I'm sure he won't know how it feels to be in this wheelchair."

The 21-year-old Lapitan says he won't let what happened on August 11, 2008 dictate how he lives the rest of his life.

"In terms of future, I can do everything I want," he said. "Anything I want to do, I'm going to do 'em."

The judge also ordered Nichols to pay more than $501,300 in restitution to the state Department of Human Services, which covered Lapitan's medical costs.

Only one defendant still needs to be sentenced in this case.