A Walker County teen shot in a turkey-hunting incident on April 4 is in rehabilitation at Shepherd Spinal Center in Atlanta with paralysis to his right arm and leg, as some details of the incident are released by DNR Law Enforcement.
Steven Chase White, 15, of LaFayette had accompanied another teen and his father, Dale McCormick, 47, also of LaFayette on a turkey hunt when McCormick apparently mistook White for a turkey and shot him with a turkey load from a 12-gauge shotgun. The shot peppered the back of White’s head and neck, and he was transported by helicopter to Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga, Tenn.
During emergency surgery at Erlanger, doctors said White had little chance of surviving the shooting, according to Tommy Gentry, with DNR Law Enforcement’s critical incident reconstruction team (CIRT), who is leading the investigation.
“He was in pretty grave shape. They gave his grandmother no hope that he would survive surgery at Erlanger,” Gentry said, “but he did.”
White is now being rehabilitated as an inpatient at the Shepherd Spinal Center, and according to Gentry, White’s father said there is hope that he will eventually regain use of his arm and leg.
The CIRT conducted an investigation at the scene, but the report had not yet been released at presstime because ballistics and toxicology tests are still being processed at the crime lab. However, Gentry was willing to release certain details of the investigation.
The three hunters were at a piece of private property off Walnut Grove Road south of LaFayette. White had accompanied the other 15-year-old on the hunt and was wearing a camouflage shirt and a red, white and black University of Georgia baseball cap.
“The victim wasn’t even hunting. He was accompanying the shooter’s son,” Gentry said. “He didn’t even have a gun.”
The two teens had apparently finished their hunt and returned to a 4-wheeler that was parked on a trail in a wooded area, Gentry said. The victim was sitting on the running board of the 4-wheeler, and the other teen was about 5 or 10 yards away. McCormick was also in a wooded area making his way back to the 4-wheeler.
McCormick was about 33 yards away from White when he fired his shotgun once, hitting White in the back of the head and neck, Gentry said. The two uninjured hunters loaded White onto the 4-wheeler and took him back to Walnut Grove Road, where McCormick’s truck was parked. There was no one home at a nearby residence, so they flagged down a passing motorist who called 911.
McCormick, who has had heart problems in the past, according Gentry, was taken to Hutcheson Medical Center in Fort Oglethorpe because of chest pains following the incident. He was treated for anxiety and released the same day, Gentry said.
McCormick voluntarily provided law enforcement with a sample for toxicology testing. Gentry did not say he had reason to believe McCormick was under the influence of any intoxicating substance. The results of crime-lab testing for toxicology and ballistics are needed before DNR can provide Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit District Attorney Herbert “Buzz” Franklin with a report.
Franklin, with a recommendation from the investigating officers, will make the decision of whether or not charges will be filed.