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Man who pulled trigger in horseplay shooting death of friend close to plea deal

Photo Credit: CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter Mary K. Miraglia
Photo Credit: CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter Mary K. Miraglia

CVP EXCLUSIVE: An East Orange man who is accused of killing his friend while carelessly playing with a handgun behind a New Milford apartment complex has less than two weeks to accept a plea deal or go to trial.

Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Danielle Grootenboer said she thinks that she can secure a deal with Byron Sankar, 22.

She originally offered 15 years in prison and then dropped it to 11 in exchange for a guilty plea to aggravated manslaughter. Defense attorney Adam Lustberg said he wants 10 years.

Sankar was one of four people who were drinking beer and horsing around the night of Aug. 3, 2013 when the gun that he was holding went off, investigators said.

The bullet struck Alex Bridge in the abdomen.

Another man, 24-year old Aaron McMorris of Hackensack, fled along with Sankar but returned to the scene and called police to try and get help for their friend, authorities said.

Police found Bridge’s body in the parking lot of the nearby New Milford Estates housing complex on Reichelt Road. He was taken to Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck, where he died.

McMorris, who has been offered probation if he will plead guilty to giving false information to police, remained free on $75,000 bail.

Another man, Nicholas Questal, a 24-year-old native of Trinidad and Tobago who was also living in East Orange, is charged with giving or selling Sankar the gun that killed Bridge. He was in federal custody following a drug conviction and could be deported, authorities said.

Bridge was partying with Sankar, Sankar’s wife and McMorris outside the rear of the Brookchester Apartments when Sankar pulled out the .9mm handgun to show the others, Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli said at the time.

Sankar “handled the weapon in such a reckless manner that it discharged, striking the victim in the abdomen and resulting in his death,” the prosecutor said.

He died at the hospital, they said.

The gun was never recovered.

Sankar remained held today on $450,000 bail in the Bergen County Jail, down from an original $1 million, on charges of first-degree aggravated manslaughter, endangering an incapacitated victim, two counts of hindering and one of illegal handgun possession.

Adam Lustberg, Byron Sankar (STORY / FILE PHOTOS: CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter Mary K. Miraglia)

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