West Jordan police say 15-year-old boy shot his 13-year-old friend in ‘tragic accident’

(Connor Sanders | The Salt Lake Tribune) West Jordan Police Lt. Richard Bell addresses reporters about the "tragic accident" that resulted in the death of a 13-year-old boy by gunshot on Saturday, July 17, 2021.

The West Jordan Police Department has booked a 15-year-old boy into a juvenile detention center after police found the dead body of his 13-year-old friend in what officials are calling a “tragic accident.”

Around 1:45 a.m. on Saturday, the 15-year-old accidentally shot the 13-year-old while in a car, police said during a news conference Saturday afternoon. The older teenager did not know the gun was loaded, officials said, and called emergency responders immediately after.

The two friends had sneaked out of their homes to a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints chapel at 5208 South and Cyclamen Way in West Jordan. Officials have not released the names of the teenagers or said how they gained access to the firearm.

“As we began investigating and digging into this case to determine what had happened, really what we found is that it was just a truly unfortunate tragic accident,” West Jordan Police Lt. Richard Bell said during the news conference.

Police did not say how the teenagers got to the chapel or why they decided to sneak out. Bell said the incident is a reminder of the importance of proper gun safety.

“I think a good takeaway from this to gun owners is to make sure your firearms are secured and that your firearms and ammunition are stored away from each other,” Bell said.

Bell said he believes medical examiners declared the 13-year-old dead at the scene.

“What this was earlier this morning was a series of, frankly, poor decisions made by some adolescents that two families are now going to have to deal with for the rest of their lives,” Bell said.

He said it was “difficult” for the officers who arrived at the scene because many of them have children the same age as the ones involved in the incident.

“It’s hard to not put yourself in those positions,” Bell said. “That’s one thing our department ... is concerned about — the mental health of our first responders when they go on calls like this.”