By Shereen Siewert

WAUPACA — An 18-year-old Waupaca man who told police he was playing “cops and robbers” when he fatally shot a friend in July was convicted Wednesday of reckless homicide in connection with the death.

Austin Hovarter was 17 when he shot 15-year-old Jacob Peglow July 26 at a rural Waupaca home but was charged as an adult. He pleaded no contest Wednesday in Waupaca County Circuit Court to a single charge of first degree reckless homicide and was convicted, according to court records.

Hovarter’s 14-year-old brother told police he was in the room on the day his brother pulled a .22-caliber pistol from an open safe, pointed the gun at Jacob and fired, according to the criminal complaint. The younger boy told police the firearm was not normally loaded and was typically kept in his parents’ bedroom.

Hovarter in September told an officer with the state Department of Criminal Investigations that he “used the revolver four or five times playing cops and robbers,” and had pointed the gun at his brother and pulled the trigger “many times” on each of those occasions. He also said he and Peglow were playing a game when the shooting took place and that he thought the gun was not loaded, the complaint reads.

Hovarter faces up to 60 years in prison on the charge. Waupaca Circuit Judge Troy Nielsen ordered a presentencing investigation and will sentence Hovarter on March 19.

Hovarter remains free on a $100,000 cash bond that was posted on his behalf.