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Man pleads guilty in New Year's party shooting that killed 2 men setting off fireworks

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Posted at 4:51 PM, Jun 06, 2023

PAW PAW, Mich. (AP) — A western Michigan man faces up to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty in a January shooting that killed two men who were setting off fireworks at a New Year’s party.

Christopher Alan Toppenberg, 63, of Lawrence Township, pleaded guilty last week in 36th Circuit Court in Paw Paw to a charge of discharging a firearm under the influence of liquor or a controlled substance and causing death, according to court records, The Detroit News reported.

That charge carries a penalty of up to 15 years in prison. Toppenberg’s sentencing is scheduled for July 17.

In exchange for his guilty plea, prosecutors dropped two counts of second-degree murder and two counts of using a firearm during the commission of a felony. Toppenberg was charged days after the deadly shooting.

Police said Toppenberg was with a group of people celebrating New Year's in a wooded area shortly after midnight on Jan. 1, when he got out an AR-15 rifle and fired 20-25 rounds horizontally in the direction of two men who were setting off fireworks about 100 feet (30.5 meters) away.

The men, Jason McCreary, 40, of Sutter Creek, California, and David Reed, 35, of Waverly Township, were fatally wounded by gunfire. McCreary died at the scene, while Reed died at a hospital.

The shooting occurred in Lawrence Township, about 28 miles (45.1 kilometers) southwest of Kalamazoo in Van Buren County.