A Victorian farmer who claimed he tripped on an eggplant when he fatally shot a man in the head will spend up to five years behind bars.
Angelo Russo, 55, pleaded guilty to manslaughter over the death of David Calandro, 43, who was shot in front of his two young sons while sitting in his ute in February 2017.
The shooting happened shortly after Mr Calandro’s vehicle had hit and badly injured Russo’s dog Harry at Russo’s Tatura farm in the state’s Goulburn Valley.
Both men knew each other and Mr Calandro had been at Russo’s farm with his sons to pick some vegetables.
Victorian farmer Angelo Russo (pictured) showed little emotion as he was led away to a prison van on Friday after his sentencing over a fatal shooting at his property in February 2017
David Calandro (pictured) was shot dead at a Goulburn Valley farm in 2017. He had his two sons in the ute with him at the time
Justice Michael Croucher sentenced Russo to five years jail with a minimum term of two-and-a-half years in the Victorian Supreme Court on Friday.
‘David Calandro took his two young sons … on what was supposed to be a pleasant jaunt to pick peppers on a farm,’ Justice Croucher said.
‘Regrettably, as a result of a series of ever-worsening decisions, first by Mr Calandro and then by Mr Russo, things turned very bad very quickly, and ultimately to utter tragedy.’
Russo had just put Harry out of his misery using a shotgun and was holding the firearm as he approached Mr Calandro’s vehicle.
But he stumbled and hit the barrel of the gun on the driver’s window.
Angelo Russo claims the gun accidentally went off after he tripped on an eggplant (pictured) that was on the ground
Justice Michael Croucher said Russo (pictured after his sentencing on Friday) had anger in his heart but no violence in mind when he approached Mr Calandro’s ute
The gun was faulty and unknown to Russo it could fire when bumped, which it did that day, fatally shooting Mr Calandro in the head.
Originally Mr Calandro had driven off without stopping when he hit the dog, which had been chasing the ute in the driveway.
But he soon returned to ‘confess to the error of his ways’ shortly after Russo had shot the injured pooch.
Justice Croucher said Russo had ‘anger in his heart but no violence in mind’ when he approached Mr Calandro’s ute.
‘Before either man could say anything, Mr Russo stumbled, possibly on an eggplant, causing the barrel of the gun to strike the driver’s side window.’
The judge noted that Angelo Russo should not have been holding the loaded gun (pictured) when there were people around, particularly in his emotional state over his dog Harry being run over
The court heard that David Calandro had arranged to go to Angelo Russo’s farm (pictured) to pick up chillies with his two young sons, where he was fatally shot
Mr Calandro was shot the head in front of his two sons in a ‘ghastly’ scene, the judge said.
‘The boys screamed and got out of the car. They were crying and in shock.’
Russo should not have been holding the loaded gun when there were people around, particularly in his emotional state over his dog, the judge noted.
But the registered firearms owner had only recently bought the shotgun second-hand and was not aware it was faulty.
Angelo Russo (pictured) was sentenced to five years jail with a minimum term of two-and-a-half years in the Victorian Supreme Court on Friday
‘It might even be said that there’s a good deal of bad luck involved,’ Justice Croucher said.
‘The gun would discharge upon being bumped. He did not pull the trigger.’
Russo was originally charged with murder but it was later withdrawn and he pleaded guilty to manslaughter.