GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A 13-year-old who police say accidentally fired a gun while playing with it, killing another teen, now faces a criminal charge.
The 13-year-old faces a count of careless discharge causing death, the Kent County prosecutor confirmed Tuesday morning. The prosecutor did not provide any additional information because the defendant is a juvenile.
The charge stems from the death of 13-year-old Gabriel Hojnacki, a Kenowa Hills Middle School student.
“Kids play with a lot of things. Guns should never be one,” Gabe’s grandmother Patti Hojnacki said. “We weren’t there to know exactly what happened but I wasn’t told that this was an accidental discharge of a gun. I was told that he was the shooter and my son identified him as the shooter.”
The family said Gabe and the other teen were acquaintances who went fishing together Saturday. Afterward, they say, Gabe went to the teen’s home on Alpine Avenue NW between 8th and 9th streets in Grand Rapids. That’s where the shooting happened Saturday night.
Another teen in the home described what he saw to the family.
“He said that he heard this loud explosion and he thought a dresser had fallen over and he stepped out and he saw Gabe covered with blood,” Patti Hojnacki said.
The Grand Rapids Police Department said the teens were playing with a gun when it went off and Gabe was shot. A GRPD spokesman told News 8 that the investigation was ongoing but that as of Tuesday, police had no reason to believe it was anything other than an accident.
“An accident? No,” Gabe’s grandfather Daniel Hojnacki said. “I’ll tell you why: because a gun does not go off unless a finger is on it.”
The family also wants to the gun owner held accountable.
The grandfather of the boy who now faces charges told News 8 that the gun is his. He said he kept it in an unlocked dresser in his bedroom and the shooting happened while he was at work.
Asked if the gun owner could face charges, both the prosecutor’s office and GRPD responded by saying the investigation is ongoing.
“My message to parents: love your kids, keep them close, keep the guns locked and not accessible to any kids. It’s a tragedy,” Patti Hojnacki said.