Teen death triggers lawsuit

Becky Vargo • Jul 21, 2015 at 2:27 PM

The 16-year-old Grand Rapids boy died March 8, 2013, after being shot during what police termed was a game of Russian roulette. The shooting occurred two days earlier at a friend’s home in northeastern Ottawa County.

“There’s no other way of compensating for that loss,” said local attorney Randy White, explaining the reason for a lawsuit filed recently in Ottawa County Circuit Court.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Kuiper’s mother, Jannie Renae Kuiper, who is listed as the representative of her late son’s estate. She’s asking for more than $25,000 in damages from the four defendants named in the lawsuit: Richard Mack Usher (the shooter); his father, Richard Paul Usher; his mother, Linda Frost; and his grandfather, Richard Charles Usher.

Read the lawsuit and answers to claims: Download the PDF documents below (Related Files).

Richard Mack Usher, 19, was jailed on a murder charge soon after Kuiper’s death. Prior to going to trial in October 2013, Usher accepted a plea agreement and was sentenced Nov. 4, 2013, to charges of felony firearm and manslaughter.

Usher was ordered to serve a mandatory two years in prison on the felony firearm charge, plus a minimum of one year and up to 15 years in prison for manslaughter. He was given credit for 244 days already served in jail.

No court hearings have been held in the lawsuit due to technicalities in serving the papers to a representative of the estate of the grandfather, Richard Charles Usher, who died in February. White said someone still has to be named a representative for the grandfather’s estate.

The other parties have been notified and answers to the lawsuit have been filed by the attorneys representing Richard Mack “Richey” Usher and Richard Paul Usher.

The answers admit, deny or “neither admit or deny” the allegations in the lawsuit, which basically claims negligence on the parts of the defendants in allowing the circumstances that led to Brandon Kuiper’s death.

The lawsuit claims the guns belonged to the grandfather and that he negligently entrusted them to his grandson. The guns included a .22-caliber Ruger Rimfire six-shot handgun.

The lawsuit claims Richey Usher and five other teens were in the basement of the Leonard Street home, just east of Lamont, when Usher took the gun, pointed it at Brandon Kuiper and pulled the trigger. The gun went off and the bullet hit Kuiper in the face.

“The defendant claimed he didn’t intend to shoot Brandon Kuiper,” White said. “He was just fooling around, thought the gun was unloaded.”

White said the teen denied to police that they were playing Russian roulette that night.

The lawsuit also claimed Usher’s parents knew the teenagers gathered in the basement, where they drank alcohol and smoked marijuana, and that they also handled guns. Richey’s father, Richard Paul Usher, denied that claim, saying nothing like that ever went on when he was home.

The father was at work at the time of the shooting. Police said the mother and grandfather were at home at the time.

The lawsuit claims the defendants breached their duty of reasonable care and caution, thus permitting “a dangerous circumstance to exist which resulted in the shooting and death of Brandon Kuiper.” The breach of duty was a proximate cause of his injuries and death.

The lawsuit asks for a judgment against the defendants, including costs and attorney fees.

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