An 11-year-old boy was shot and killed by his stepdad after he mistook him for a deer during a youth hunt, police say.
On Sunday night in Clay Township, Michigan, Zachary Rock died whilst hunting with his family in a wooded area. Allegedly, his stepdad mistook the boy for a deer, officials say.
The family had been taking part in an annual Michigan Liberty Hunt, which is aimed at younger hunters and those with disabilities.
Before the hunting season officially kicks off on October 1, the hunt was intended to give people the chance to gain a basic understanding of hunting safety.
Clay Township Police Chief Michael Koach said: “Like most of these, it could have been preventable.
“That is the shame of it.”
Zachary had been out with his mum, Heather Varndell, and stepdad on his grandfather’s property, as they had been taking part in the Department of Natural Resources “Youth Deer Hunt”.
According to officials, the group shot a deer at around 7.40 pm and they went out in search of finding it in the woodlands.
At around 8 pm, the darkness had set and the group still had their weapons out. It was at this point that stepdad fired a shot that struck the young boy.
Koach said: “At this point, shots were fired. They thought they were shooting at a deer and one of the rounds hit the young man.”
Zachary was then rushed to the McLaren Macomb Hospital and then transferred to Children’s Hospital in Detroit. The doctors tried desperately to save him, but the 11-year-old succumbed to his injuries.
Koach added: “It’s the only way you can put this is absolute tragedy.
“No doubt about it.”
After her son had been shot, the mum scrambled to unload her weapon and accidentally shot herself in the hand, officials say.
Despite investigators believing the shooting was an accident, Zachary’s stepdad was taken into custody due to his criminal past.
Koach said: “What we are going off of right now, past criminal history that ties everything together, questions [that] there could be other violations.”
DNR officials are also involved in the investigation as they are concerned the family wasn’t following health and safety regulations, one of which being a hunter should be wearing blaze orange attire.
Koach, who happens to also teach hunting safety classes, said: “I can’t stress enough to follow the rules, the laws when out there in the field.”
Following her son’s tragic death, Heather posted a tribute to Zachary on Facebook. She wrote: “Fly high little guy your mommy loves you so much so dose your sister and dad you will so missed but you will live on in the hearts of so many .. I’m so lost at words lost at every thing.. I love you son.”