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New details emerge in shooting of NBCUniversal executive

April 12, 2011 | 11:49 am

KapA Chatsworth man who is accused of fatally shooting an NBCUniversal executive pleaded not guilty to a single count of murder Tuesday as new details emerged about the case.

David Andrew Armstrong was arrested days after Los Angeles police said that Brian Russell Kaplon visited his home in the 20000 block of Vercelli Way and was shot in the chest with an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle while the two men were in the garage of the residence.

An LAPD source told The Times that Armstrong was showing Kaplon the rifle when a round from the weapon discharged into Kaplon's chest. Armstrong, who worked for his father-in-law's foam packaging company, was arrested after allegedly making conflicting statements, and based on additional evidence that investigators declined to detail.

An attorney for Armstrong said a second shot had been fired, which lodged in the attic, and that the LAPD and district attorney's office were informed about the discovery of that evidence.

Kaplon, who worked in the finance department at NBCUniversal, was described by friends and co-workers as affable and creative. He was married and had one child, with twins due in May.

Armstrong faces up to 50 years to life in prison if he is convicted of the murder as well as the sentence enhancement for using a gun. He remains free on $1-million bail and is due to return to court May 25.

Jim Blatt, the attorney for Armstrong, said the evidence will show the shooting was a tragic accident involving two friends who had been drinking at Armstrong's home.

On Tuesday, Blatt said that over the last two weeks the defense had turned over additional information to prosecutors and detectives that included phone records and text messages between Armstrong and Kaplon.

In addition, the defense also turned over cellphone records from Amstrong's wife and mother-in-law. The women and Armstrong were also reinterviewed by the LAPD.

"What appears to have happened is that Amstrong and Kaplon had been drinking that evening," Blatt said. "At the time of the incident, my client had a blood-alcohol level of 0.15, which is approximately double the legal limit for driving."


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--Andrew Blankstein

Photo: Brian Russell Kaplon. Credit: KTLA