According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, an average of eight children and teens under the age of 20 are killed by guns every day and a gun in a home is 22 times more likely to be used to kill or injure in a domestic homicide, suicide or unintentional shooting than to be used in self-defense.
On Thursday, Feb. 6 in a residence near Kalles Junior High School in Puyallup, these statistics became all too real. Eddie Holmes, a 13-year-old seventh grader attending Kalles, was with four of his friends that afternoon following school. A boy who lived at the home brought out a shotgun from the master bedroom to show his friends. He gave it to one boy and shortly thereafter, the weapon fired and shot Holmes in the chest. Holmes passed away at Tacoma General Hospital.
The Puyallup Police Department are investigating the incident as a tragic accident.
Friday morning, Feb. 7, Kalles Principal Guy Kovacs sent home a letter to parents promising them the school district was taking the necessary actions to ensure teachers, staff and students received the counseling they needed. In addition to the three counselors staffed at Kalles, the district brought in four additional counselors from other schools.
“Students who felt the need, were able to visit with a counselor at school today,” Kovacs wrote. “Teachers read a statement at the beginning of first period and those teachers played an active role in identifying any students having trouble dealing with the emotions surrounding this loss.”
Kovacs went on to write in the letter affirming the importance of maintaining a daily routine that school provides.
“We encourage all students to attend school to be with their teachers and friends, as well as keep up with their studies,” Kovacs wrote. “Please be assured that the staff members at Kalles Junior High School will do all that we can in helping your child cope with this tragedy.”
Captain Scott Engle of the Puyallup Police Department said that the tragedy is a reminder of just how important it is to make sure everyone has a basic knowledge of firearm safety.
“Make sure that the weapon is secure in a locker or in a gun lock,” Engle said.
The weapon in the residence was not secured and was loaded. No adults were present at the time of the shooting. Engle said parents should maintain good communication with their children about making good choices.
“It’s important knowing what your kids are up to, having good communication with your child so when they’re out and about they make good choices,” Engle said. “It’s always important to know the families that your children associate with, have good communication with them. Always introduce yourself to their friends. Know about the situation and the environment, so you can be comfortable with your child being in that environment.”
The 13-year-old boy who shot Holmes was booked into Pierce County Juvenile Detention for one count of first degree manslaughter. The Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office is reviewing the case to determine if any additional charges or arrests are required.
Reporter Andrew Fickes can be reached at 253-552-7001 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @herald_andrew.