Fort Stewart soldier Hunter Jack Kelly, 20, died of a gunshot wound after a fellow soldier handled a weapon that discharged and struck him in the head, Long County Sheriff Craig Nobles said.
Kelly was pronounced dead at the scene, the sheriff said.
Spc. Peter Anthony Petri, 25, of Ludowici, who also is stationed at Fort Stewart, is being held without bond in the Liberty County Jail on charges of involuntary manslaughter and reckless conduct.
Nobles said during an interview Monday afternoon that about eight or nine people were at a home on Virginia Lane Northeast in unincorporated Long County when Kelly was shot around 11 p.m. Saturday. Until then, it apparently had been a quiet party because the sheriff’s office had not received any noise or rowdiness complaints about the home, Nobles said.
The sheriff said another man at the gathering was arrested and charged with obstruction of law enforcement because he did not comply with deputies’ instructions. That man, identified in a sheriff's office incident report as Ryan Thomas Brown, 22, of Fort Stewart, has since been released.
When asked whether investigators believe the shooting was a case of things taking an unfortunate, tragic turn during a party, Nobles emphasized the nature of the charges. He said he can’t elaborate while the investigation is ongoing.
Petri is charged with involuntary manslaughter. The Georgia Code says a person is guilty of involuntary manslaughter “in the commission of an unlawful act when he causes the death of another human being without any intention to do so by the commission of an unlawful act other than a felony.”
Petri’s other charge is reckless conduct, a misdemeanor.
According to an incident report filed by Long County Sheriff’s Office Detective Thomas Sollosi, when deputies from Liberty and Long counties arrived at the home based on a report of shots being fired, they discovered a man lying on the floor near the kitchen with a gunshot wound to the head.
Petri told Sollosi that he had been drinking and was handling a firearm when it discharged, striking Kelly.
GBI Special Agent in Charge Stacy Carson would not say how many times Kelly was struck.
Fort Stewart spokesman Kevin Larson said in an email Monday afternoon that Petri is assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division.
“Petri remains innocent until proven guilty in a court of law; however, the alleged actions are not in line with our Army's values,” Larson said.
A cavalry scout, Petri entered active duty in February 2012. He deployed to Afghanistan that year.
Military officials are cooperating with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Long County Sheriff’s Office, Larson said.
The deceased soldier's family has been notified, Larson said, but the Army will not release his name until 24 hours after his next-of-kin were told, in keeping with federal law and military regulations for releasing the names of casualties.
“The thoughts and prayers of the 3rd ID and Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield are with the families and friends affected by this incident,” Larson said. “Installation support services, including counselors and chaplains, have been provided to the unit.”