GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The grandfather of a teen that accidentally shot and killed a 13-year-old in Grand Rapids last year was sentenced in a Kent County court Wednesday.

On May 28th, 2022, investigators say two boys were playing with a gun at a home on Alpine Avenue between 8th and 9th streets when it went off, killing 13-year-old Gabriel Hojnacki.

“Gabriel was a 13-year-old full of life ahead of him, he was a very gifted child full of love and laughter, willing to help anyone in need,” said Patti Hojnacki, Gabriel’s mother. “At least you are alive (speaking to George Jay Gross in court). My son is dead as a result of your negligence and blatant disregard for the law.”

George Jay Gross is the grandfather of the alleged shooter and said the .45 caliber weapon used during the shooting was his. His grandson told police that he took the gun from his grandfather’s nightstand. Gross claimed to investigators that he thought all of his guns were locked up.

“The guns were there to protect my wife. The gun was loaded for her protection,” Gross said.

For leaving the gun where children could access it, Gross was originally charged with involuntary manslaughter.

In June, he pleaded no contest to negligent discharge causing serious injury or death, as a fourth-time habitual offender. Gross was emotional as he spoke to a judge during his sentencing hearing.

“I feel so bad. My grandkids all played with this young kid, I knew him and this was a terrible accident,” Gross said.

Gross was sentenced to 24 days in jail, with credit for 24 days served. Gross also received three years of probation. 

“It doesn’t seem like much for what happened here but there are a lot of extenuating circumstances here. One of the ones I’ll say is I don’t think Mr. Gross is lying on his appearance and his demeanor. I get the feeling that he is an elderly person who is struggling in that regard. So I have into some account as to what would necessarily be served by additional jail time,” said Judge Paul Denenfeld.

After the sentencing hearing, Hojnacki’s family told News 8 that they were disappointed in the ruling. Last year, Gross’ grandson was also charged with careless discharge causing death.