Rockingham County, NC-- The Rockingham County Sheriff's Office continued its investigation Monday into the death of a 14-year-old boy.
According to Sheriff Sam Page, 14-year-old Tyler Hodge was at a family gathering at his family's home along Baker Crossroads Road, just outside of Reidsville. A neighbor told WFMY News 2 they were celebrating a birthday when some of the kids went into the woods to play.
Rockingham County deputies said a boy came out of the woods and flagged down a driver. He told the driver his friend was accidentally shot with a BB gun.
When deputies found Hodge, he was dead.
On Monday, the deputies said at this point they believe it was an accident, but they are still investigating and waiting for a report from the medical examiner's office. They also called this an unusual case.
I've been in law enforcement for 30 years. I've see injuries due to BB guns and most of the time it is just that. I've even had reports of people who have lost an eye because of a BB gun, but never have I heard of anyone losing their life because of one. And that's where we find ourselves," said Sheriff's Deputy Dean Venable.
However, according to local firearms salesman and firearms safety instructor, Rick Kanoy, a BB gun is still a weapon and a firearm. He added, any firearm can be deadly.
While Kanoy couldn't speak specifically about Hodge's death he said a BB can leave a gun at 700, 900 and even 1,000 feet per second. Kanoy also said a BB could kill someone up to 20 yards away.
"IF a BB would hit your skin, it would actually penetrate an inch of your skin. That's a long ways. And if it were to hit your eye, it would go right through your eye. If it hit you in the temple, it would go all the way through and also, if it hit you in the jugular vein, you would bleed to death in a matter of minutes," Kanoy said.
The sheriff's department has not said where Hodge was hit or exactly how he died. According to the deputies, it's also too soon to determine if any charges will be filed in the case.
In North Carolina, there is no law that states a person has to be a certain age to use a BB gun, unless they live in one of 17 counties. Those Counties include Anson, Caldwell, Caswell, Chowan, Cleveland, Cumberland, Durham, Forsyth, Gaston, Harnett, Haywood, Mecklenburg, Stanly, Stokes, Surry, Union and Vance Counties.
In those counties, children must be older than 12 to use a BB gun with a parent or guardian present because they are considered "dangerous firearms."
In all other counties, including Rockingham County, BB guns are not considered "dangerous firearms." However, it is a misdemeanor crime for anyone to have a BB gun on school property.
Deputies reminded parents to always teach kids gun safety. They said to always treat a gun as loaded and never point it at someone else.
Toy Or Weapon?
There was an overwhelming response from people we talked to about whether they feel BB guns are toys or weapons.
"It's a weapon. It's a weapon. Sixteen and under should not have them. Those guns, you can pump them up and they got plenty of power," said Gary Tilley of Eden.
"As far as I'm concerned they're weapons. They should be kept away from children," said Tommy Lemons of Ridgeway, VA.
"It can injure you. My own kids were injured, so I think it's a weapon," said Kisha Tinsley, who lives in Eden.
Her 14-year-old son, Nino, said, "Weapons. They hurt."
Tamera Brame of Eden said, "I think toys. I mean they can be dangerous but I think they're toys."
Lieutenant John Deane with the Rockingham County Sheriff's Office even said BB guns can be one or the other. It depends on who's using them and how they're using them.
He said, "More along the sporting toy, you know. It's kind of an in-between. It's really difficult to judge," he said
WFMY News 2