041102_pentictdp

Dustin Paul, seen here in a photo taken before the shootings, has been sentenced to serve 16 years in prison before becoming eligible for parole. (CP)

A 27-year-old Penticton man has been sentenced to life in prison for shootingfive friends and relatives, killing three of them and wounding two otherson the Penticton Indian Reserve in 2004.

Dustin Paul was convicted by a jury last September of second-degree murder and attempted murder after the shooting spree at a bush party.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Duncan Shaw ruled Wednesday that Paul must spend 16 years behind bars before he is eligible for parole.

Shaw said that in most cases, a person found guilty of a mass murder should spend at least 20 years behind bars beforebecoming eligible for parole.

Butthe judge saidhe acceptsPaul's testimony thathe was sointoxicated by drugs and alcohol, he was not in control of himself when he shot the five men.

The shooting had a terrible impact on the Penticton Indian Reserve, because the killer and his victims were all either close friends or relatives.

The sentence was read out in a courtroom packed with residents of the reserve.

Some wept as Paul was led away in handcuffs. But many also said this sentence allows them to move on with lives that were shattered by the shooting in 2004.

Ally Butler says she can never forget the awful night when her husband Quincy Paul was shot to death by his own cousin. But she said she is starting to forgive.

Paul, Damien Endreni andRobin Baptisteall died at the side of the road. Tommy Lee Gabriel ran for his life, clutching a shattered jaw, while the fifth man, Billy Louie, survived by playing dead, lying in a shallow creek.

Apologizes for actions

On Tuesday, Paul got up in court during the sentencing hearing and apologized for his actions.

Laurie Wilson, the stepmother of one of the victims, accepted the apology and said there is a need in the community for reconciliation.

"It will never be forgotten, but it's part of our healing to forgive," she said. "And absolutely give him a road map to help him come back and make things right again."

In her victim impact statement, Wilson told Paul about the pain he caused, and challenged him to return to the reserve when he is released, to help the children of the men he killed.

The case may not be over yet.

Defence lawyer Chris Johnson says he will be filing an appeal of the original verdict of second-degree murder, arguing that his client should have been found guilty of no more than manslaughter.