GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The grandfather of the teenager who allegedly accidentally shot and killed a 13-year-old boy in Grand Rapids’ West Grand neighborhood earlier this year is facing charges, according to the county prosecutor.
The Kent County Prosecutor’s Office announced that George Jay Gross Jr., 60, is charged with involuntary manslaughter for leaving a handgun in a place accessible to children. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison.
The victim, 13-year-old Gabriel Hojnacki, and his friend were playing with a gun on May 28 at a house on Alpine Avenue between 8th and 9th streets. The gun went off, shooting the 13-year-old in the chest. He was taken to the hospital, where he later died.
Hojnacki’s friend later told police he was holding the firearm in one hand when it fired and he did not remember putting a finger on the trigger, court documents say.
In May, the Grand Rapids Police Department said investigators believed the shooting was an accident.
Gross, the grandfather of the alleged shooter, told News 8 in May it was his 45-caliber gun the teens were playing with. Gross said he was at work at the time of the shooting and stored the weapon in an unlocked dresser in his bedroom.
According to a probable cause document, Gross’ grandson told police he took the gun from his grandfather’s nightstand after Gross left for work.
Police found a handgun in the draw of a nightstand, along with two more handguns in a secret drawer, court documents say.
Gross told investigators he thought all the guns were locked up and did not remember if he had stored the gun with a round in the chamber, court documents say.
He told police he may have told one or two of his grandchildren about the guns, the court documents say.
Hojnacki’s family hopes these charges send a message.
“This is an awful tragedy that should have never happened, but we are grateful the gun owner is being held accountable,” attorney Bradley Peri said in a statement to News 8 on behalf of Hojnacki’s family.
He added while people do have a right to own guns, they also have a responsibility to protect children by keeping them locked up and unloaded.
“While we cannot bring our son back, if this heartbreak can change the actions of just one gun owner and save a single child, Gabriel’s life was not lost in vain,” Peri wrote in the statement.
— News 8’s Jacqueline Francis contributed to this report.