Teen accidental shooting victim loved outdoors, making people laugh

  • Hunter Grizzell in a photo posted to his Facebook page on March 20.
    Hunter Grizzell in a photo posted to his Facebook page on March 20.

A teenager is dead and a family is grieving after what police say was an accidental shooting in Hart County Thursday afternoon.

Deputies responded on April 23 in the afternoon to a residence on Cokesbury Highway where a report of an accidental shooting occurred.

Hart County Sheriff Mike Cleveland said 18-year-old Hunter Grizzell, of Elberton, who was living at the Cokesbury Highway residence at the time, was attempting to get a magazine clip out of his pistol when the gun went off, striking and killing him. Grizzell died at the scene from a gunshot wound to the head, Hart County coroner Mike Adams confirmed.

Cleveland said a juvenile witness on-scene told investigators Grizzell could not get the clip out of a pistol and that the gun fired while he was attempting to take it out of the gun.

The body was sent to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab for an autopsy, Adams said.

Just moments after the ambulance arrived at the Cokesbury Highway residence on Thursday, Rod Burton, Grizzell’s step-father, pulled up to the scene in his truck. Burton said Grizzell had been living in a building on his property for about a month. He said he received a phone call about the incident around 2:30 p.m. on Thursday.

“That was the worst gut-wrenching feeling I’ve ever had in my entire life,” Burton said. 

Burton, who has been a fireman and first-responder for more than 30 years, said he’s seen many gruesome accidents, but nothing prepared him for this.

“When I got the phone call at work, my heart dropped and I immediately broke down,” Burton said. “I took off, got in my truck and took off home. I arrived at my house in Cokesbury right behind the ambulance.”

Burton said he prayed it wasn’t true.

“It was just an accident. One of those freakish, freakish accidents,” Burton said. “... I keep wanting him to come say ‘hey, can we go fishing today?’ I’ve been looking for that all day and it’s not there.”

Grizzell loved outdoor activities, such as hunting and fishing, Burton said.

“He loved his animals. He loved snakes. He had a gecko, he had a pet snake. He just loved the outdoors and he loved to hunt and fish,” Burton said.

Burton said Grizzell deeply loved his mother and his two sisters and was very protective of his family.

“Even though he was my step-son, he was just like my real son,” Burton said. “I got three other boys at home and they were like really close, close brothers.”

A lot of family and friends, Burton said, will remember Grizzell as a person who always wanted to make everyone laugh. Burton said Grizzell had a lot of friends, no enemies, and would always cheer people up by making them smile.

“He was a good kid, a great kid,” Burton said. “He stood up for what was right … Hunter was the type that if he went and got him something, well whoever was with him they got something too.” 

Grizzell was the son of Arlyne Gail Flippen and the late David Edward Grizzell, according to an obituary on Hicks Funeral Home’s website. 

The family is hosting a memorial service Tuesday, April 28 at 7 p.m. at 1244 Cokesbury Highway in Hartwell for family and friends.

A fundraiser was started to help pay for the burial costs and can be found on Gofundme.com by searching for “Hunter Grizzell Family Burial Fund.”