By MELINDA WILLIAMS
RADFORD – A 22-year-old Hiwassee man was playing with a gun he thought was unloaded when he accidentally killed his brother last summer, according to Radford Commonwealth Attorney Chris Rehak.
Rehak said Samuel Christopher Smith was initially charged with second-degree murder, but he pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter Friday in a plea agreement with the Commonwealth.
“By all accounts this was an accidental shooting completely devoid of motive or malice and hence the crime is categorized as manslaughter,” said Rehak.
“The unusual nature of this tragedy further supports a disposition of probation.”
He added, “This is the second gun-related accidental shooting death in a row involving family members our City has experienced. Playing with guns is dangerous and the public is reminded to handle firearms with extreme caution and never assume a gun is unloaded.”
Rehak said an investigation into the June 30 shooting death of 25-year-old Travis Lincoln Smith found that Samuel Smith pointed a weapon he thought to be unloaded at Travis Smith and pulled the trigger. When police arrived on the scene in the 200 block of Jefferies Drive, they found the victim in the breezeway of an apartment building, bleeding from a gunshot wound to the chest. He was pronounced dead on the scene.
Rehak said it was the wish of the men’s family that a plea agreement be entered.
For pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter, Smith received a 10-year suspended sentence, a $500 fine and he was placed on active probation for two years. Two other charges of reckless handling of a firearm and discharging a firearm in an occupied building were nolle prosequi (not prosecuted with the option to refile).