Teen clinging to life after 'game' goes wrong

Becky Vargo • Jul 21, 2015 at 12:19 PM

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.

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