Walker County Teen Critical After Being Shot While Turkey Hunting

Victim—wearing red, white and black hat—mistaken for tom.

GON Staff | May 1, 2007

At presstime, a Walker County teen remained in the intensive care unit of Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga, Tenn. after being shot in the back of the head with a shotgun in a turkey-hunting incident on April 4, 2007.

Steven Chase White, 15, was hunting with a friend and the friend’s father, Dale McCormick, 47, when the shooting happened. McCormick apparently mistook White for a turkey and shot him, said Walker County Sheriff Steve Wilson.

All three hunters are residents of Glenn Street in LaFayette. They were hunting a piece of private land south of LaFayette off of Walnut Grove Road. They were set up several hundred yards from the road, Wilson said.

“From all indications it was accidental. Apparently the young victim had walked away from the other two hunters, and Mr. McCormick didn’t know where he had gone,” Wilson said.

After the shooting, McCormick and his son loaded White onto a 4-wheeler and took him to a nearby residence, said Wilson. The 911 call was received by dispatch at about 5:45 p.m., and White received first aid at the scene before being airlifted to Erlanger.

McCormick was later transported by ambulance to Hutcheson Medical Center in Fort Oglethorpe for chest pains, Wilson said.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Law Enforcement Section has taken over investigation of the case. A critical incident reconstruction team (CIRT) began a reconstruction of the scene on April 6, and the investigation was still ongoing at presstime.

DNR would not release an incident report because the CIRT team’s investigation has not been completed, but Ben Johnson, with DNR Media Relations, said the victim was between 25 and 50 yards from the shooter.

Johnson also confirmed that the victim was wearing a University of Georgia hat that had the colors red, white and black — all colors that are found on an adult male wild turkey. He could not provide specifics on the shotgun involved in the incident or the type of shell McCormick shot.

According to Sgt. Brian Keener, with DNR Law Enforcement, McCormick had a valid hunting license.

Keener said that once the investigation has been completed, the facts of the case will be handed over to Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit District Attorney Herbert “Buzz” Franklin, who will decide if there are grounds to charge McCormick with wrongdoing.

Franklin has successfully prosecuted offenders in two fatal, hunting-related cases since he took office in 1997. He said he considers himself tough on offenders when hunting incidents involve serious injury.

“Talking to the hunting community, the hunter takes this harder than your average person,” he said. “They view themselves as the ones who might be out in the woods and get shot. They want strong penalties.”

Although, he would not speculate as to whether or not charges will be filed, Franklin said one of the most common charges filed in this type of incident is misuse of a firearm while hunting.

A felony charge, which involves “a gross deviation from a reasonable standard of care,” carries a 1- to 10-year sentence. The lesser misdemeanor charge carries a maximum of 12 months.

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