Teen clinging to life after 'game' goes wrong

A game of Russian roulette has left one Ottawa County teenager hospitalized in critical condition and another in jail.
Becky Vargo
Mar 8, 2013

UPDATE: Brandon Kuiper died Friday afternoon. To read the updated story, CLICK HERE.

The shooting occurred when a group of six boys ages 16-19 played a form of Russian roulette Wednesday night in the basement bedroom of a home in the 3900 block of Leonard Road.

“The suspect took the .22 caliber, pointed it at the head of the victim and pulled the trigger,” said Lt. Mark Bennett of the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department. “It was not premeditated.”

Bennett said it was not uncommon for teens to gather at the house and it was not uncommon for them to "mess around" with guns. He said Wednesday was also not the first time some of the teens had played Russian roulette at this house.

“It’s very, very disturbing," the officer said.

The aftermath of the incident was felt throughout northern Ottawa County as counselors attended to students at two high schools, and two families dealt with the repercussions of the dangerous game played by teenagers.

Brandon Kuiper, 16, continues to fight for his life at Spectrum Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids.

His friend, Richard “Richey” Mack Usher, 18, was arraigned Thursday on charges of attempted manslaughter and felony firearm related to the shooting of Kuiper. Usher is lodged in the Ottawa County Jail on a $200,000 bond.

Emergency crews were summoned to the home at about 9:15 p.m. Wednesday. They found Kuiper shot in the face and the witnesses trying to help him, Bennett said.

An ambulance rushed Kuiper to the hospital as deputies arrested Usher. Investigators confiscated several guns at the house, and found marijuana and alcohol at the scene.

“It was in use," Bennett said. "It certainly appears to be a factor in this incident.”

Neighbor Mark Doan said they were used to occasionally seeing fire trucks and an ambulance at the house because the grandfather has health problems.

“Last night, there were more cops and more people there," Doan said. "I kind of thought something had happened."

Doan said he has had trouble in the past with Usher and his younger brother trespassing and shooting their guns on his property. Shooting their guns was a common occurrence, he said.
“Three or four days a week, they’re over there shooting,” Doan said.

Another neighbor, Audrey Monroe, said the boys are outside shooting so much that she fears for her safety.

“We sit inside and hear bullets riccocheting off metal once in a while,” she said.

Monroe said she and her husband had talked about it, saying, “It’s only a matter of time before someone gets shot.”

The neighbor said the boys are “troubled” and shouldn’t have access to any weapons.

“I believe in the Second Amendment right to bear arms, but there are some people who shouldn’t and they are one of them,” Monroe said.

James King, 17, a senior at Kenowa High School and a former student at Coopersville, said he’s known Usher for a long time.

“He just seemed like the kid who would do something like that,” King said. “But, who the hell messes with a gun and shoots your friend?”

There is a photo on Usher's Facebook page of him holding a silver gun, with this caption: "This sweet bundle of death is the Ruger Mark III Olympic competition model."

Elsewhere on his Facebook page, Usher wrote: "F*** all of you two faced motherf*****s I'm done. ... F***** surrounded by people but all alone."

Another former Coopersville student, Ronnie Verner, said Usher once said he was going to "go postal."

“He gets picked on because of the way he talks,” Verner said.

The teen said the exact opposite is true of Kuiper.

“He’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever met,” Verner said. “This is definitely not what he deserves. ... His belief was peace and love and happiness. If anybody had any problem with him, he would say, ‘I love you.’”

Brent Bayer, 15, who lives a couple of doors down from the Kuipers at the Tallmadge Meadows Mobile Home Park, said Brandon Kuiper "fits in with everybody."

“He’s funny, cool, someone who keeps, like, a good mood all the time,” Bayer added.

Bayer said he was one in a roomful of students who met with counselors most of the day at Coopersville High School, where both of the teens used to attend prior Kuiper's enrollment at New Options Alternative Education High School in Allendale.

“They were all talking about it,” he said. “Everyone was crying.”

Kuiper was in "very critical condition" late Thursday, Bennett said. If the teen dies, Bennett said the charge against Usher would change to manslaughter.

 

Comments

LessThanAmused

“The suspect took the .22 caliber, pointed it at the head of the victim and pulled the trigger,” said Lt. Mark Bennett of the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department. “It was not premeditated.”

Really? NOT premeditated??? Let's see....a half dozen kids get together to play with guns, they make the DECISION to play (a form of) Russian Roulette, One kid grabs the gun, loads a round and points it at his buddy's head, pulls the trigger and well, you can probably figure out the rest.... What part of that whole scenario isn't premeditated?? Then I got to thinking maybe I don't understand the definition of premeditated so I looked it up. Here's the definition according to Merriam-Webster....

: characterized by fully conscious willful intent and a measure of forethought and planning

Well, I would think that loading the pistol (not to mention aiming it) would constitute some degree of forethought and planning...although maybe it's the fully conscious part that's the fly in the ointment. There was alcohol and pot involved so because of that the shooter wasn't fully conscious???

I don't get it, I'm sure I'm wrong, but the article makes it sound like the officer was aware of a bad situation, in that the kids had played Russian Roulette at that address before. Why did it take one of the kids to get shot before something was done? The article doesn't say anything about parents, but the neighbors seem to have been aware something wasn't quite right, why didn't somebody do something??? There'd have been more noise made about stray dogs running loose in the neighborhood than was made about these children out playing with loaded guns, unsupervised by any adults.

Was anybody aware of the content of his Facebook page before this happened? I went and took a look at the content there....talk about a cry for help that went unanswered....he was failed by his parents, friends, teachers and neighbors. Too bad it took this incident for him to get some attention from those around him.

GHJames

I hope people don't get upset about a little underage drinking and weed. It's not like they were house sitting.

snlfan

Monroe said she and her husband had talked about it, saying, “It’s only a matter of time before someone gets shot.”

The neighbor said the boys are “troubled” and shouldn’t have access to any weapons.

“I believe in the Second Amendment right to bear arms, but there are some people who shouldn’t and they are one of them,” Monroe said.

Ya Think?

Too bad the NRA lobby will prevent any kind of prevention program to exist... Mr. Monore here saw the problem, and had no recourse to do any kind of corrective action... to sad for all or us, especially the kid with the bullet in the brain.

Wingmaster

WTF......"Too bad the NRA lobby will prevent any kind of prevention program to exist"....what rock you been living under. The NRA has all kinds of youth programs! This is the result of bad parenting. THAT'S the problem. Using a tragedy to push a political agenda is another part of the problem, which is also tied to bad parenting!

CPinSL

Did you think before typing or does that stupidity just pour out on its own? The NRA has as much to do with this as does MADD or AA for stopping drunk driving.

Take a look at the kid's Facebook page. The picture of the silver gun (mentioned in this article) has several of his friends telling him to put the guns away, while he relies that they can take care of themselves. I won't go so far as to say it's his parents' fault, but it certainly isn't the NRA's. He made a poor choice to pull a gun out and fool around with it. Intentional or not, HIS actions directly led to a person being shot.

gh53

SNLFAN - Blame the NRA? Are you serious???? Get informed before making a comment like that!

Lets play the blame game because that always produces effective results! Come on!!!!!

I'm not normally about blaming the parents for a kids bad decision...but...I'm more then a little curious as to their take on their childs behavior and facebook rants leading up to this tragic event. Looks like warning signs, red flags and flare going off screaming I have issues! Help Me! Sounds like the authorities had visited several times...they left there thinking all is on the up and up?

Unrepresented

Remember that our U.S. Representative Bill Huizenga is a staunch supporter of NRA policies. We should watch his votes very closely in the upcoming gun safety bills.

zwesterhouse

Its just all statistics. We have 150,000 people in this county. 10% are going to be stupid. Thats 15,000. Tragic as this is, its must a mathematical certainty. This stuff will happen. Next summer at the pier 4 kids drown every year. Next summer two kids will be shot through reckless/careless use of firearms. But leave our 2nd amendment alone

dyankee

SNLFAN, stop looking for the retract button....there isn't one. Sometimes you should just think before clicking the save button. It happens to most opportunist like yourself. Unrepresented, update please, what is congressman Huizenga doing right now?

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