News 12 at 6 o'clock / Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012
GROVETOWN, Ga. -- Halloween night turned deadly for a group of young teenagers in Grovetown. They told investigators they were celebrating the holiday when somehow a shotgun accidentally went off.
Eighth grader Kristen Burnette was shot and pronounced dead at her own home.
A bouquet of flowers sits near the driveway of the home where a teenage girl lost her life on Halloween night.
"It's just reckless, careless and senseless loss and a tragedy that this situation would happen," said Grovetown Public Safety Chief Gary Owens.
Grovetown Middle School has flags at half staff in honor of 13-year-old Burnette.
"Kristen has a lot of friends, you can just tell the outpouring of emotion that our school is going through right now. She touched a lot of lives at our school," explained Grovetown Middle School Principal Tom Smallwood.
Officers say Burnette was accidentally hit with a shotgun, found and fired by a 14-year-old male friend inside her home.
"It was a social gathering of young teenagers, and during that gathering, he separated from the rest of them and when he came back, he had the firearm, it discharged and led to this event," Owens said.
Neighbors say they heard the shot and then the sound of screaming teenagers running from the home.
"That just makes it worse for everybody when something like this, an accident occurs, and takes the life of a young person," Smallwood said.
"This community and the police department are very close and when things like this happen, it tugs at all of us," Owens said.
Grief counselors are on hand for students who need someone to talk to about their friend.
"I don't know if anybody is emotionally equipped to deal with situations such as this, especially when they're middle school aged. That makes it even more difficult for them," Smallwood said. "A lot of students here are just in shock and they're thinking about the last time I talked to her and they're speaking to me about the last time they talked to her we talked about this, and I've assured them how good being a friend to them is and they need to think about how great a friend she was to them."
The 14-year-old suspect is at the youth detention center, charged as a juvenile with involuntary manslaughter.
The police chief says the victim's mother was at the home earlier in the night when there were more children there but was gone at the time of the shooting. We're told the victim's stepfather is serving overseas and they're working to get him back to town.