Police: Irresponsible gun ownership led to Eau Claire teen’s death

Published: Jul. 23, 2021 at 9:40 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - Police say an Eau Claire teenager’s death is the result of irresponsible gun use.

26-year-old Austin Vang is charged with the murder of his girlfriend’s brother, 14-year-old Marwan Washington, after he says he fired his gun while the two were “messing around” and forgot it was loaded.

Firearm experts say by following a few simple rules, situations like this can be avoided.

“Treat every gun like it is loaded, never point your gun at anything you aren’t willing to kill or destroy, keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target and you’re ready to fire, and know what your target is, what’s in front of it and behind it,” said Joe Anderson, Marc-On Shooting General Manager.

Anderson says he goes over the rules of firearm safety with all his gun purchasing owners and encourages them to take a beginner’s course.

“Don’t be complacent, get educated, use the safety measures that you have,” he said.

Eau Claire Police Deputy Chief Derek Thomas said Washington’s death could have been avoided.

“It is well known that firearms are not a toy. They are dangerous and responsible gun owners lock their guns up and do not play with them as if they are toys,” he said. “So please if you have firearms in the household and have children or anyone else in the household, lock up the firearms use it responsibly like responsible firearm owners do.”

Vang is charged with first-degree reckless homicide and faces decades in prison for his deadly mistake.

Authorities allege Vang admitted to officers he shot Washington when the two took a break from playing “Call of Duty” to wrestle. Vang had a gun in his hand but tells police he didn’t think it was loaded when he pulled the trigger and shot the teen. He admitted to messing around with the gun often and that this wasn’t the first time he had shot at Washington, according to the criminal complaint.

When asked why he kept a gun, Vang told officers it was for protection.

Vang is being held at the Eau Claire County Jail on a $50,000 bond. If found guilty, he faces up to 65 years in prison. He is scheduled to be in court on Tuesday for a preliminary hearing.

For more gun safety tips, click here.

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