14-Year-Old Girl Dies In Accidental Shooting Moments Later, Man Holding The Gun Commits Suicide

TUESDAY, DEC. 9, 1997

Breanna McMichael was working to overcome one tragedy when another struck her down Monday.

The 14-year-old Spokane Valley girl accidentally was shot to death inside her family’s blue duplex in the 7400 block of East Euclid, sheriff’s deputies said.

McMichael, who was raped by a carnival worker in March, stopped breathing Monday despite friends’ and neighbors’ efforts to save her. She died at a hospital less than an hour later, deputies said.

The 18-year-old man who was handling the gun when it fired turned the weapon on himself moments after the shooting, committing suicide in a snowy alley about a block away. Deputies have not released his name, pending notification of relatives.

The shooting occurred about 3:15 a.m. as McMichael, the 18-year-old man and several other people were sitting in the front room of the duplex, witnesses said.

The 18-year-old apparently pulled a handgun out of his coat and was holding it when it fired, deputies said.

“It appears the pistol was being handled inappropriately,” sheriff’s Lt. John Simmons said. “He didn’t use proper gun-handling safety.”

The bullet hit McMichael in the stomach, deputies said. The man then ran out of the house.

Deputies were on the scene investigating when a shot rang out about a block to the east. They ran to the alley to find the man dead.

“The shooter apparently was overcome with grief and committed suicide,” Simmons said. “There was a sudden inability to cope.”

Residents of the neighborhood said teenagers were known to congregate at the McMichael home and throw loud parties at all hours. But McMichael seemed to be doing well despite the distractions, officials said.

She recently was named student of the week at Spokane Valley High School, where she was enrolled in a contract-based education program, said David Smith, superintendent of the West Valley School District.

Just last month, she had served as a panelist in the county’s Teen Court program, deputy prosecutor Mary Ann Brady said. McMichael told a group of peers what it was like to testify in a trial, Brady said.

As a 13-year-old, McMichael was raped by carnival worker Terry Purcell, who had abducted her off the street. Based largely on the girl’s testimony, a jury convicted Purcell in the attack last month, and he was sentenced to 32 years in prison.

“I had a tremendous amount of respect for her. She had been through a lot,” Brady said. “She was a neat girl. It just shows how horribly unfair life is.” , DataTimes

Tags: Death

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