OCONEE COUNTY, S.C. – Two South Carolina boys, ages 8 and 9, have been charged with killing a man who was found slumped over his still-running tractor with a bullet wound to the back.
The Oconee County Sheriff’s Office said a petition has been filed in Family Court in reference to charging the pair with involuntary manslaughter in the June 23 shooting, WSPA reports.
Deputies responded to the man’s property in Oconee County, located in northwest South Carolina, last week after his wife reported that she was looking for her husband after failing to get in touching with him.
Danny Andrew Smith, 62, was found slumped over the steering wheel of a running tractor. He was unresponsive and had gone down an embankment, striking a tree.
“After a consultation with the Solicitor’s Office, and based on the evidence obtained in our ongoing investigation, we believe that both juvenile males discharged a firearm in a reckless manner in the direction of Mr. Smith who was bush hogging on some family property,” says Oconee County Sheriff Mike Crenshaw.
“At this time, it is still undetermined which shot ultimately struck and killed Mr. Smith. However, based upon South Carolina law, the hand of one is the hand of all and that is why Family Court has been petitioned in regards to charging both juveniles with involuntary manslaughter.”
Under South Carolina law, juveniles under the age of 10 cannot be detained so both boys have been in the custody of the parents as the judicial proceedings continue, the sheriff said.
“With a charge of involuntary manslaughter, it has to be shooting in a reckless manner. So, we do believe they shot in the direction of Mr. Smith on the tractor, and not just shooting up in the air,” Crenshaw said. “We don’t think there was any malice. We don’t think it was premeditated, that their intent was to actually kill Mr. Smith, but when you fire a firearm in the direction of another person, in a reckless manner, then that is considered involuntary manslaughter.”
Crenshaw said it’s unknown if the boys knew Smith, as that is still a part of the investigation.
“We don’t know at this point 100 percent if they actually knew him,” Sheriff Crenshaw said.
The Sheriff’s Office is continuing its investigation and the juveniles’ identities will not be released. The weapon, a .22 caliber rifle, has been recovered and examined by the SLED forensics lab in Columbia.
“This was a tragic loss for the Smith family and it became even more heartbreaking when we learned that he was shot by an 8-year-old and a 9-year-old,” Sheriff Crenshaw said. “Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the Smith family. Danny had recently retired a couple of months ago. So, continue to pray for them in the days and weeks ahead. But, we also got to pray for these boys. you know they’re going to be obviously held accountable for their actions, as well.”
Based upon evidence obtained during the investigation, and from the autopsy, it was determined that Smith had sustained a single gunshot wound to the back, but it’s not known which boy allegedly fired the fatal shot.
Sheriff Crenshaw said the Solicitor’s Office and the Department of Juvenile Justice will petition Family Court for a hearing.