Boy, 15, fatally shot by cousin in 'tragic accident' at Wilmington church

ByMichelle Gallardo and Megan Hickey via WLS logo
Wednesday, December 27, 2017
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A 15-year-old boy died after he was accidentally shot by his cousin late Tuesday night at a church in far southwest suburban Wilmington.

WILMINGTON, Ill. (WLS) -- A 15-year-old boy died after he was accidentally shot by his cousin late Tuesday night in a "tragic accident" in far southwest suburban Wilmington, Will County Sheriff Mike Kelley said Wednesday morning.

Officers responding to a report of shots fired found the teen around 11:30 p.m. at the Christian Faith Center in the 1800-block of South Water Street. The center is part of the Church of God of Prophecy, the church's website said.

Speaking at a press conference in Joliet Wednesday morning Sheriff Kelley described the chain of events which began close to midnight Tuesday in the residential part of Wilmington's Christian Faith Center while the two boys were having a sleepover.

Kelley said the 15-year-old boy, who lived in Godley, Ill., and his 17-year-old cousin thought they heard someone trying to break into the church. The boys allegedly grabbed a rifle from a closet in a residential part of the complex and ran to check on the noise.

On their way to the gymnasium part of the church, the sheriff said the older teen tripped on an extension cord, causing the rifle to fire. The 15-year-old boy was struck by a bullet under his armpit. Family members said they tried to perform CPR.

First responders found the teen unresponsive and rushed him to Riverside Medical Center in Kankakee, where he was pronounced dead. His identity has not been released.

Will County sheriff's deputies, Wilmington police officers and police dogs combed the scene for evidence overnight. They did not find any signs of forced entry, the sheriff said.

"Basically, it was a tragic accident, where they thought someone was breaking into the church. They responded with a rifle. Unfortunately, a 15-year-old lost his life because of it," Kelley said.

Authorities questioned the distraught 17-year-old, who fully cooperated. The sheriff said the teen is the pastor's son and the pastor owns the rifle. The family had just moved into the church residence and the younger teen was there for a sleepover.

"Hindsight is always 20/20. I would suspect that the best thing that could have happened was the 17-year-old wake up his father and let his father address the situation. He decided to take it into his own hands," Kelley said.

Police say the pastor's son had a valid Firearms Owner's Identification (FOID) card and he was released into the custody of his parents. The victim's relatives said they did not want to press charges.