EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) — The man charged in the shooting and killing of an Evansville teenager over the weekend made his first court appearance Tuesday as family and friends of the victim prepare a vigil to remember their loved one.
16-year-old Rylan Conway was fatally shot after 19-year-old Eriyon Gibson says he pulled the trigger on a gun they were playing around with that he says he believed was empty. Gibson says he pulled the trigger a few times while pointing the gun at Conway. He says the .38 caliber weapon discharged and hit Conway in the stomach. Witnesses say Conway was conscious when emergency personnel responded but later died at the hospital.
“What I try to tell people is it’s not a joke, it’s very serious. One misfire or fire or whatever can change lives,” said Evie Waddell.
Due to the accidental nature of the incident, legal professionals say Gibson was charged with reckless homicide instead of murder because of the intent behind the action.
“Reckless homicide would be if somebody were to act in a way that any reasonable person could recognize the danger of their actions, and those actions cause a death, that would be reckless homicide; with murder you actually intended to kill them,” said Jonathan Danks with Danks & Danks.
Waddell lives across the street and says the Gibson family has now been on both sides of a death due to gun violence. He says a few years ago, Eriyon’s uncle died and his grandmother, who he lived with on Powell Avenue, is still batting with her grief.
“These kids have to understand that they need to put these guns down and go to some other source of entertainment. Guns is is probably not gonna be it. It’s gonna end you in one of two places, jail or the grave,” said Waddell.
Now, two families are dealing with those outcomes. A vigil for Conway is planned for Wednesday at 8 p.m. on the Evansville Riverfront.
Gibson remains in the Vanderburgh County Jail without bond. He is expected back in court on Thursday. Eyewitness News has learned prior to the shooting, Gibson was sentenced to 273 days of probation for auto theft in September of last year.
(This story was originally published on July 7, 2020)
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