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19-year-old Lincoln man charged with manslaughter for July 4 shooting of friend
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19-year-old Lincoln man charged with manslaughter for July 4 shooting of friend

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A Lincoln man arrested for fatally shooting his close friend, a 20-year-old prison guard, early on the Fourth of July has been charged with manslaughter and second-degree assault.

Zachariah Serna's attorney, Brad Sipp, previously called Gavin Hall's death a horrible accident and said it was "horseplay gone bad."

Zachariah Serna

Zachariah Serna

The Lancaster County Attorney's Office initially asked the judge for more time to make a charging decision, and Wednesday filed the felonies against Serna, 19.

Each carries a possible penalty of up to 20 years in prison if he's convicted. 

Serna, who is out of jail on $50,000 bond, is set to go to court Thursday. 

Gavin Hall

Gavin Hall

On July 4, police arrested him after responding to a 911 call and finding Hall dead of a single gunshot wound just after 12:30 a.m., at a home the men rented with two others at 2701 S. 40th St.

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Witnesses told police Serna and Hall had been "bantering" back and forth before the shooting occurred.

In July, Lincoln Police Chief Jeff Bliemeister said: "During this encounter, Serna retrieved a shotgun from his bedroom and walked toward Hall. Serna discharged the shotgun one time, striking Hall in the head."

He didn't say if police believed Serna had meant to shoot Hall.

Gavin A. Hall

By Nebraska law, a person commits manslaughter by killing someone without malice upon a sudden quarrel or causing a death unintentionally while committing an unlawful act, for example firing a firearm within Lincoln city limits.

The day of the shooting, police said that at a small gathering at the home, some participants apparently "were playing around and a firearm was involved."

In an online fundraiser in July, Hall's family called it a tragic accident.

Hall was a corporal for the Nebraska Department of Corrections and had worked at the Lincoln Correctional Center for two years.

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On Facebook, Serna identified himself as a member of the U.S. Army.

The two went to Norris High School together, Hall graduating in May 2018 and Serna a year later.

Sipp said Serna, who called 911, has cooperated fully with investigators, giving a statement about what happened and giving them his phone so they could see the joking messages he and Hall had exchanged that night.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7237 or lpilger@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSpilger

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Public safety reporter

Lori Pilger is a Norfolk native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who has been a public safety reporter for the Journal Star since 2005.

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