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Memories of teenager are positive

April 17, 2002|BY SARAH MULLIN

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

Students who knew 15-year-old Shawn J. Wrachford, who died from an accidental gunshot wound Monday night, said he was a nice guy who took up for the younger kids, a crisis team member said.

Larry Hoener, organizer for the crisis team for Berkeley County Schools, said the students shared an "awful lot of positive" memories about Wrachford on Tuesday.

Wrachford and a group of young people were in Wrachford's mobile home on Smallwood Drive in Dodson's Mobile Home Park east of Martinsburg, W.Va., when Wrachford was shot in the head at around 7:30 p.m. Monday.

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The Berkeley County Sheriff's Department said the shooting was accidental.

The three counselors at Martinsburg High School, where Wrachford was a freshman, are part of the crisis team.

"It is a tragic situation and we had some very upset students. We've had deaths but not like this," Martinsburg High School Assistant Principal George Michael said.

Michael said he announced Wrachford's death over the intercom system Tuesday morning.

The Wrachford family moved to Dodson's Mobile Home Park about five months ago from Short Gap, W.Va., in Mineral County, Michael said.

No one answered the door at the Wrachford home Tuesday.

Hoener said crisis team counselors would be on hand for two or three days at South Middle School where Wrachford's 12-year-old sister, Brittany, is enrolled, and at the elementary school were the 9-year-old boy who fired the gun is enrolled.

"We are basically sounding blocks. We offer encouragement and support. We tell them time will heal (the pain), but the timetable is different for everybody," Hoener said.

Neighbor Brian McKinney, 14, said he hung out with Wrachford.

"He was pretty cool," he said.

McKinney said they played cards and games, and listened to music such as rock and underground rap.

Chief Deputy Kenny Lemaster said there was "no confrontation, no malice and no motive" behind the shooting.

The shot was fired from a high-powered, older model hunting rifle that belonged to Wrachford's parents, Lemaster said.

At the time of the shooting, about six or eight children were in the trailer, Lemaster said.

The bullet that killed Wrachford went through the wall of the mobile home and hit the drywall behind the walls of the vanity area in the bedroom of the adjacent mobile home.

"We were sitting in the living room when we heard it. We had trouble last year with mice so we thought it was a mouse trap but louder," said Eleanor Romans, who lives in that mobile home.

After the shooting, the older brother of the 9-year-old boy came into their home and asked for some water, she said.

"He was really upset and said it was an accident," Romans said.

Lemaster said parents should not have loaded firearms around the house, and he recommended that firearms and ammunition be kept locked in separate locations.

"If a kid can get the ammo out, he may not be able to get to the gun," he said.

Lemaster recommended disabling firearms so people who are not familiar with guns can't put a gun back together.

The Children's Defense Fund reported that 3,761 teenagers were killed by gunfire in 1998, with 262 of those youngsters the victims of accidental shootings.

A child dies in America from gunfire about every 21/2 hours, the nonprofit organization reported.

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