Lawyer: Marine Accused of Firing Shotgun Was Defending Family

An Iraq war veteran who was named Marine of the Year was defending his family when he fired his shotgun into a parking lot toward early morning revelers and injured two of them, his attorney said Tuesday.

Sgt. Daniel Cotnoir feared for his family's safety after someone threw a bottle through his second-floor window, which overlooks the parking lot, attorney Robert Lewin said during opening statements at the Marine reservist's trial.

"He aimed at a piece of the ground that was away from where people were," Lewin said.

But victim Kelvin Castillo, 21, who acknowledged that there was a boisterous crowd in the parking lot, testified that Cotnoir wasn't aiming for the ground.

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"I felt like the gun was pointed at me," he said. "I pushed my mom hard to the left. I dove."

Castillo later discovered he had been shot in his left leg.

Cotnoir, 34, who is married and has daughters ages 7 and 12, was indicted on two counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon after he fired a single shot at a crowd of people leaving nightclubs last August.

The shotgun shell shattered against a curb, and fragments struck Castillo and 15-year-old Lissette Cumba, both of Lowell.

Cumba, now 16, testified that she was shot in the right side of her neck and in her right leg as she scrambled to get into the back seat of her sister's car.

Cumba said she had gone to a restaurant across the street from the parking lot with family members. Castillo said he had gone to the same restaurant after working a shift as a waiter at a Cracker Barrel restaurant in Andover.

Cotnoir was named Marine of the Year by the Marine Corps Times last July. He served in Iraq for 10 months in 2004, using his training as a mortician to prepare the bodies of dead U.S. soldiers for burial.

In media interviews after returning home, Cotnoir said retrieving the remains of his fellow soldiers took a heavy psychological toll on him.

He is expected to testify.