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Gun Play Caused Burley Teen's Death

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BURLEY • Teenage horseplay resulted in the Nov. 2 shooting death of 16-year-old Ryan J. Willes, according to police documents released Friday.

Willes and his friends were cleaning their firearms after a day of hunting when one of the boys picked up a Benelli 12-gauge shotgun, unaware it was loaded, and pulled the trigger, investigators concluded.

“He was opening and closing the pump action and then pointed it up and pulled the trigger,” wrote Cassia County Sheriff’s Detective Dan Renz of the 14-year-old shooter, whose name was removed from the investigation reports released Friday because he’s a minor facing no criminal charges.

The slug struck Willes’ throat, killing him, in what prosecutors have deemed an accidental shooting. No charges will be filed in the case, officials announced on Thursday.

“We went over it carefully and we found no intent. It was just a tragic accident,” said Cassia County Prosecutor Al Barrus.

The owners of the home where the six boys were cleaning the guns were at a church meeting when Willes was killed, according to the police reports. They rushed home, found Willes’ body slumped against the basement wall and laid Willes on his back and blessed him before emergency responders arrived.

Investigators concluded that no malice was involved in Willes’ death.

“Everybody was good buddies and nobody had been arguing or fighting,” said Detective Jason Rogers in his report. “There was no alcohol, drugs or prescription pills being used. Everybody was in their right mind.”

Times-News opinion editor Jon Alexander contributed to this report.


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