ATHENS, AL (WAFF) - The man who is accused of allegedly killing a 5-year-old Athens child after firing rounds at a New Year's Eve party pleaded guilty on Thursday in federal court to illegally possessing the gun because he was in the United States illegally.
Fidel Rodriguez-Canchola was charged in January with criminally negligent homicide.
Investigators believe the shooting was an accident. The man, who is a friend of the victim's family, was allegedly firing the rounds in his yard when the girl ran into the line of fire.
According to Rodriguez-Canchola's plea, he celebrated New Year's in the early morning hours of Jan. 1 by firing a Harrington & Richardson 900 .22-caliber revolver into the air outside his Athens residence. One of the rounds he fired struck a five-year-old who died shortly after.
When Limestone County Sheriff's deputies found Rodriguez-Canchola a few hours later, he admitted to firing the weapon but "insisted that he had not seen the child until she fell," according to his plea agreement.
Rodriguez-Canchola was a native and citizen of Mexico, unlawfully present in the United States at the time of the shooting, according to his plea.
The maximum penalty for possessing a firearm by a prohibited person is 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
ATF, Immigration and Customs Enforcement HSI and the Limestone County Sheriff's Office investigated the case, which Assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa K. Atwood is prosecuting.
Rodriguez-Canchola sentencing is scheduled October 12.
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