FLORENCE — Investigators are seeking a criminal charge against a 12-year-old boy for shooting a 7-year-old Florence boy with a pellet gun Saturday, Florence County Sheriff Kenney Boone said.
The petition to charge the boy with assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature was signed Tuesday by a sheriff’s investigator and the state Department of Juvenile Justice, Boone said in a press release. The case now will be turned over to the 12th Circuit Solicitor’s Office, which will determine whether the boy will be charged.
The shooting happened about 5:30 p.m. in the 200 block of Eaton Circle where several children were playing, according to sheriff’s office reports.
According to the incident report, D.J. Westbrooks was riding his bicycle in front of his home while the 12-year-old boy laid on the ground, took aim and fired.
D.J., a first-grader at Royall Elementary School in Florence, underwent open heart surgery at McLeod Regional Medical Center in Florence.
His father, David Westbrooks, said he may be released from the hospital by Wednesday, though he still has an IV in place. He said D.J. is doing well and was up walking around and eating Tuesday afternoon.
Westbrooks said he didn’t want to comment about any charge the 12-year-old who shot his son may face. He said the most important thing is that his son is doing well.
“It was critical, very critical,” Westbrooks said in an interview Monday. “We were thinking just a little pellet wound, no big deal, but once we got to the emergency room at McLeod we realized how serious it was.”
Many people don’t understand how dangerous BB and pellet guns can be, Dr. James Baumgartner, a neurosurgeon at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston, said in a 2005 interview with the university’s online publication, HealthLeader.
“People don’t realize that pellet guns and BB guns are lethal weapons. They aren’t toys,” he said. “They are weapons, and they should be treated as such.”
When one child is injured by such weapon used by another child, both children suffer, Baumgartner said.
“They sometimes feel unbearable guilt, and the child they shot feels anger,” he said. “No one walks away from this. Lives get turned upside down.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also has warned that the power of some of these guns should not be underestimated and that children with “toy” guns should never be left unsupervised.
A special study by the CDC, “BB and Pellet Gun-Related Injuries,” showed that between June 1992 and May 1994, more than 47,000 children and teenagers were treated for BB or pellet gunshot wounds in hospital emergency rooms.
Most were boys, children between the ages of 10 and 14, and teens between the ages of 15 and 19. Most wounds were unintentional, self-inflicted and in a home, but some were the result of an assault or suicide attempt.
Westbrooks said he doesn’t want people to lose sight of how serious this incident was. He said it’s a miracle D.J. survived.
“We just want parents to understand how dangerous a gun such as a pellet gun is for kids and not only kids, but adults as well,” Westbrooks said Monday. “Anyone that gets struck by one, it could take their life just as our son almost lost his.”