Calhoun County Assistant Coroner Shane Adrian identified the boy who died as William Parris, also 12, of Jacksonville. He was known as “Will,” Adrian said.
Calhoun County Sheriff Larry Amerson said the shooting occurred at a home on Macon Johnson Drive in Pleasant Valley Tuesday afternoon. The two boys were playing outside on a trampoline, Amerson said, and Parris’ cousin went inside his home to get the shotgun, intending to show the other boy the gift.
The sheriff said Parris was standing on the trampoline when the shotgun, which had been loaded with one shell, went off, its discharge hitting the boy in the chest. The Jacksonville Fire Department and a Life Saver helicopter responded to the incident.
“The injuries were too severe and the young man was pronounced dead at the Jacksonville hospital,” Amerson said, referring to RMC Jacksonville.
Parris was pronounced dead at 4:54 p.m. Tuesday, Adrian said.
Amerson said an adult was at the home during the incident, but was in the house cooking dinner.
“This is a terrible tragedy,” Amerson said. “The boy described his cousin as his best friend.”
Teresa Johnson, principal at Pleasant Valley Elementary School where Parris was a student, said sixth-grade students there had counseling available and a more flexible schedule Wednesday following the death of their peer.
“All the activities today are geared on a healing atmosphere,” Johnson said.
The principal said she and several teachers made calls to all the sixth-grade students’ parents Tuesday night after learning about the boy’s death.
Johnson said the educators wanted parents to be able to tell their kids rather than the students finding out through texting or social media.
Johnson said a group discussion was held with students Wednesday morning so faculty could dispel rumors and answer students’ questions.
“It was a tragedy that happened. That’s the message we’re presenting to our students; it was an accident,” Johnson said.
Students asked for prayers for the seventh-grade boy who accidently shot his cousin. One student recited a Bible verse and said “he believes the Lord does things for a reason,” Johnson said.
Johnson said the students are planning an assembly to share stories about Parris and are going to wear University of Alabama apparel on Friday because “he was such a big Alabama fan.”
Ashley Cranmer, a science teacher at Pleasant Valley Elementary, said the sixth-grade class of nearly 90 students is “leaning on one another right now and helping each other through it.”
“He was such a sweet boy,” Cranmer said of her student. “He was kind to everyone.”
Pleasant Valley High School Principal Mark Proper said the boy who owns the shotgun is a current student. Proper said classes were being conducted as usual at the high school Wednesday, but a group discussion of the incident was held with students.
“We covered exactly what happened so we could squash any rumors and let them know the truth that it was a horrific accident,” Proper said.
After the discussion, the principal said students did not ask many questions about the incident. Proper said counseling was available for students who desired it. The principal said the accident did not prompt a discussion on gun safety with students.
Firearms safety crucial
The prevention of such accidents relies on knowing when a gun is loaded, according to one local expert.
Sgt. Andrew Howell, a Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries law enforcement officer, said one of the main rules when handling a gun is to make sure it’s not loaded. Howell said that rule is always taught in Alabama’s Hunter Education Course.
“We also recommend locking guns away separately from the ammunition,” Howell said. “That’s the main thing we teach for keeping guns around the home.”
Howell said if a person keeps a loaded gun for protection it’s a good idea to buy a handgun safe. He said the safe can be accessed with a key or combination lock and “makes it easily accessible by the right person.”
The sergeant said a trigger lock can also be used if locking a firearm away is not an option. A trigger lock makes it easy to see if a gun is loaded because the firearm’s action is kept open and the gun is unable to be fired while the lock is in place.
“It’s the simplest, most inexpensive tool you can use to keep (a gun) safe,” Howell said.
Howell said it’s important to always be familiar with a firearm before handling it.
Staff Writer Rachael Griffin: 256-235-3562. On Twitter @RGriffin_Star.