Johnson County Sheriff's Office deputies have ruled the shooting of a 13-year-old Joshua girl Tuesday evening by her half-brother to have been accidental.
Emilee Bates was shot in the 1200 block of W. FM 917 by Austin McCord, 19, who was cleaning his rifle around 8 p.m. when he accidentally discharged a live round that struck Emilee in the mid-stomach region, according to JCSO Lt. Tim Jones. She died at around 10 p.m. at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth. Tuesday was Emilee's birthday.
"There is no question in our minds that this is just a horribly tragic accident," Sheriff Bob Alford said. "(McCord) did everything he could do after the firearm was discharged."
He activated a home alarm system to notify law enforcement at 8:05 p.m. and sheriff's deputies arrived at 8:11 p.m. to find McCord holding his sister's wound, Alford said.
“The Joshua ISD is saddened by the tragic loss of one of our students, our thoughts and prayers go out to this student's family," Superintendent Fran Marek said. "School district counselors have been sent to provide grief counseling for both students and staff at Loflin Middle School.”
There were two dummy rounds placed by McCord above the loaded magazine of the rifle for cleaning.
McCord ejected the dummy rounds and believed he was making the weapon safe by pulling the trigger to drop the bolt on an empty chamber, according to Jones' report. McCord forgot he had a loaded magazine in the weapon, which discharged upon his pull of the trigger and struck his sister, Jones said.
"Our hearts go out to this family," Alford said.
No charges are pending against McCord. The incident was found to be "110 percent accidental," Alford said.
On Wednesday morning, about 12 hours after the shooting, R.C. Loflin Middle School principal Damon Patterson said the mood at his school was "somber and respectful."
"I can't say enough about the faculty and staff here at Loflin and the way they've helped our kids cope with this tragedy," Patterson said. "She was a very sweet, little girl and very good in the classroom. All of her teachers said she was destined for great things."
Patterson visited the hospital emergency room Tuesday to visit the child's family and said he was impressed by the family.
"This young girl's parents and family have an incredibly strong faith and when I got to the hospital their pastor was there along with the little girl's youth pastor," he said. "They are a family that is relying on their faith to get them through and I wanted them to know that we are here to do whatever we can to help them through this tragic time."
This is the last week of school for the JISD before it dismisses for the summer.
"We have a full day of class and (today, June 6) will be a half day," Patterson said. "We've cancelled final exams. There are so many kids and teachers hurting right now. There are bigger things to worry about now besides exams."