A 14-year-old Grovetown Middle School pupil has been charged in the Halloween shooting death of a 13-year-old classmate.
Kristen Burnette, 13, was pronounced dead at about 11:15 p.m. in her home at 5048 Reynolds Way, Columbia County Coroner Vernon Collins said.
A 14-year-old boy is charged with involuntary manslaughter for accidentally shooting her with a shotgun, Grovetown Department of Public Safety Capt. Donovan Jones said. He’s being held in the Regional Youth Detention Center.
The incident appears to be senseless, but not malicious Grovetown Chief Gary Owens said.
“It’s carelessness with a firearm,” Owens said. “These kids are friends. There’s no maliciousness. It is just a senseless tragedy.”
Kristen and three friends were “hanging out” at her house. No adults were home, Collins said. The victim’s mother, Miriam Lunsford, was not home and her step-father, Steven Lunsford Jr., is an Army soldier deployed to Afghanistan.
The 14-year-old boy went looking through the house and found a 12-gauge shotgun loaded with buckshot in the master bedroom.
“She was sitting in a chair in the dining room at her laptop,” Collins said. “She was struck in the head by the projectiles from the shotgun.”
The boy “accidentally discharged” the gun in the den and hit Kristen in the dining room 22-25 feet away, Jones said.
“If there’s a firearm at the house, it needs a gun lock on it,” Collins said. “It’s so inexpensive when it comes you your child’s life or anybody’s life.”
The investigation is ongoing, Owens said.
“Our heart goes out to the family and the school children,” Owens said.
Students and faculty at Grovetown Middle, where Kristen was in the eighth grade, were rocked Thursday morning by the news of her death.
“Her teachers were just devastated his morning,” said Grovetown Middle Principal Tom Smallwood. “A lot of the kids are having a really difficult time going through the grieving process as children.
“We’re just doing all the things to help these kids.”
Grief counselors and psychologists had been meeting with children all morning in the school’s media center and some classrooms, Smallwood said. They’ll be back at Grovetown Middle Friday and possibly next week if needed.
Kristen was well liked and friendly with many different groups of pupils at the school, Smallwood said.
“I haven’t heard anyone say one word that was unkind about her,” he said. “She was super popular with a lot of kids.”
A free-spirit who liked to skateboard with friends, Kristin also was funny and loved rainbows, the principal said.
Pupils are planning to pin rainbows to their clothing as a tribute to the eighth-grader. Classmates also
were making banners with hand-written messages for Kristen to hang in the school.
“You could just tell from the reaction, she touched a lot of kids,” he said.
Kristen is the second teenage Columbia County girl to be accidentally shot and killed by a male friend this year.
Eleanor “Elle” Kelly, 13, of Harlem, was accidentally shot in the face March 29 by Zach Provance, then 14. Provance was showing off his father’s gun at his Keener Street home when it went off.
No adult was home at the time and the gun was no locked.
Kelly died the next day and Provance was charged with involuntary manslaughter.
Aaron Schmidt, of Harlem, was sentenced to life in prison in March after being found guilty of murder for the Jan. 31, 2011, shooting death of Alana May Calahan, 14. Schmidt, then also 14, used Alana’s father’s gun to shoot her in her dining room, then drag her body to woods behind her home.
Staff Writer Jenna Martin contributed to this story.