Uncle of town of Sharon boy fatally shot: 'An accident that could have been prevented'
SHARON—The uncle of the 11-year-old boy who was fatally shot Wednesday in the town of Sharon is calling for more awareness and accountability on the part of gun owners.
“I do believe you should be responsible if you are going to have guns and keep them under lock and key, and definitely not let a child have any way … of getting hold of them,” said Donny Orick.
Orick's nephew, Eric Gutierrez, was shot in the head in what Orick called “an accident that could have been prevented.”
Eric was declared brain dead early Thursday morning at Mercy Hospital and Trauma Center, Janesville.
Eric remained on a ventilator Wednesday, Thursday and part of Friday until his organs were matched, retrieved and donated Friday afternoon.
Orick is the brother of Eric's mother, Rebecca Galarza.
Eric suffered a gunshot wound to the forehead, according to a post on Galarza's Facebook page. She, too, called it an accident, Orick said.
The shooting was reported at 12:33 p.m. Wednesday.
Walworth County sheriff's deputies and Sharon police responded to a 911 call of a person shot in the head in a wooded area behind a home at N1602 County K.
They found a juvenile male with a gunshot wound to the head and applied first aid until Sharon Rescue arrived and transported the boy to the hospital in Janesville, Undersheriff Kurt Picknell said earlier this week.
A 13-year-old was reportedly with Eric and witnessed the incident.
According to Orick:
Eric went over to the 13-year-old's home to hang out Wednesday. They found a gun in the house and traveled on a four-wheeler out to a wooded area. It was there the boys set up targets and the 13-year-old shot the gun and Eric “ran through the line of fire” and was hit.
Deputies on Wednesday afternoon were speaking to the 13 year old, both families and to others with information about the case, Picknell said.
The 13-year-old witness lives at the home where the incident occurred and was friends with Eric. The 13-year-old is not in custody, Picknell said Thursday.
"Right now, he is just a witness," Graves said Thursday.
Authorities are verifying evidence and statements from the 13-year-old, both families and others with information about the case, Picknell said Friday morning. He would not release more information on the circumstances surrounding the shooting, nor would he confirm it was an accident.
Sheriff David Graves said more than one handgun was recovered by investigators at the scene.
Other pieces of evidence also were collected, but Picknell would not comment on specifics.
Investigators are working to determine the number of shots fired and if the boys had firearms safety training, Picknell said.
Eric's hands were tested for gunshot residue and none was found, Orick said.
Donating at least six of Eric's organs to six people across the United States is what the town of Sharon boy would have wanted, Orick said.
The donations also are helping the family grieve and find solace in the tragic incident.
“The only way (Galarza) could make sense out of what happened was to save these other lives,” Orick said.
Eric's eyes and eyelids have not been donated but will be after they are used to determine how far away he was from the person who pulled the trigger, the uncle said.
Orick, who lives in Arkansas, described his nephew as a happy, lighthearted kid who loved helping others and keeping tabs on the Wisconsin Badgers and Chicago Bears.
Eric leaves behind two brothers and two sisters.
Orick's most recent memories of Eric are sitting with him in the backyard roasting marshmallows, Eric helping his little sister tie her shoes and Eric persistently asking his uncle to play with him.
“He's always wanted to make everybody laugh and smile and never wanted to be the center of attention. It seemed like he wanted everybody else the center of attention,” Orick said with a quiver in his voice.
Orick's other sister called him Wednesday afternoon to tell him what happened. When he heard the news he couldn't believe it.
“I told her to tell me again and she did,” Orick said. “I didn't want to hear what I heard. I couldn't believe what had happened.”
Orick and the family placed a cross and flowers where Eric was shot after saying their goodbyes to Eric Friday. Orick said he did get some closure, but walked away with more questions than answers about what happened. Ultimately, he said he wants to see someone held accountable.
“I'm not an advocate for taking guns away,” Orick said. “I just want to see more responsibility taken. And when something like this happens, I like to see people held accountable when it could have been prevented.”