A county commissioner from Texas could be charged with a felony in Nebraska because he accidentally shot his 12-year-old grandson at a wedding he was helping to plan.
On Saturday night, Michael Gardner, 62, of Odessa, Texas, pulled out a revolver at an outdoor wedding near the small town of Denton in southeastern Nebraska. He planned to fire a blank round into the air to signal the start of the ceremony. But as he pulled back the hammer on the gun, it went off and hit the boy just below his left shoulder.
“I really don’t know exactly what happened,” Gardner told The Associated Press on Wednesday from Beatrice, Nebraska, where he has been staying since the incident. “I’ve been around guns my whole life, and nothing like this has ever happened to me.”
Gardner, who is a commissioner in Ecto County, Texas, said he was marrying his nephew outside about 10 miles southwest of the capital city, Lincoln. Gardner said that he made the blank round by putting together an empty shell, some black gunpowder, and hot glue. Officials think it was the dried glue that hit the boy and hurt him.
Police said in a news release that Gardner fired the gun to get people’s attention at the wedding, but Gardner says that’s not true. “The gun was part of the wedding’s script,” Gardner said. “The gun went off to let everyone know that the music was going to start and that the bride could start walking down the aisle.”
The boy was taken by ambulance to a hospital in Lincoln, and then to the Children’s Hospital in Omaha, where he was stitched up and sent home. He should get better completely. Gardner said he was there the whole time with the child. “I’ve never left his side,” said Gardner. “No one feels worse about this situation than I do. I don’t know if I will ever get over it.”
Gardner turned himself in to the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office on Monday. The office has recommended that Gardner be charged with felony child abuse, which can get you up to three years in prison and is usually reserved for abuse that hurts the child on purpose. Gardner turned himself in and paid a $1,000 bond to get out of jail.
Chief Deputy Ben Houchin said after Gardner’s arrest, “Just another example that playing with guns, even if they’re blanks, can lead to bad things.” “We don’t think Michael meant to hurt his grandchild, but it was a dumb thing to do.”
In another strange move, prosecutors have not brought any charges against Gardner. At a hearing on Tuesday, prosecutors said they will decide what charges, if any, to file against Gardner by his arraignment on November 3. Lancaster County Chief Deputy Attorney Chris Turner said that Tuesday’s anticipatory arraignment hearing was different from what usually happens, since a follow-up arraignment is usually held a day or two after a hearing like that.
When asked Wednesday why no charges had been filed, Turner said, “We’re still looking into it.” Gardner knew that being charged with a felony could end his time in politics. Gardner’s first term as Ecto County Commissioner has been going on for three years, and he plans to run for re-election next year. He said that people with felony convictions can’t hold the office.
“Politically, whatever happens is what happens,” he said. “That’s fine with me. I would never try to explain what went wrong. I’m the one who needs to do something.”