Charges have been laid against the grandfather of Gabriel Hojnacki’s boyfriend over the 13-year-old’s death, according to Kent County District Attorney Chris Becker. According to Becker, the older man is charged with the inadvertent murder of the teenager in the Western Grand neighborhood of Grand Rapids in May.
According to court documents, 60-year-old George Jay Gross Jr. unintentionally left a gun on a bedside table where children could get it. If found guilty, the suspect will likely serve 15 years of his life in prison.
A look at the accidental murder of Gabriel Hojnacki
Gabriel Hojnacki was with a friend on May 28, 2022, at the friend’s grandfather’s home on Alpine Avenue. Hojnacki was fatally shot in the chest by the two teenagers’ toy gun as they were playing with it. He was rushed and later pronounced dead.
On the day of the incident, a detective from the Grand Rapids Police Department testified in court regarding a probable cause document. According to the officer, Gross Jr.’s grandson, who is currently facing charges as an adult, walked into the first man’s bedroom and removed the gun from the bedside table. This resulted in the death of the teenager by accident.
According to an affidavit, Gross’ grandson stood in the doorway between the living room and the kitchen while Gabriel Hojnacki rested on the couch. According to reports, Hojnacki’s friend later admitted to authorities that he was holding the gun in one hand when he was shot, so he does not remember pulling the trigger.
According to Gross, the youths were tinkering with his .45 caliber pistol when he opened fire. He further stated that when he was at work, the rifle was stored in an unlocked chest of drawers in his bedroom. The handgun, according to Gross’ grandson, was discovered on the nightstand.
Police discovered a handgun in the bedside drawer along with two other firearms in a concealed drawer, according to court documents. Gross admitted to police that he could not recall whether or not he stowed the firearm with a cartridge in the bedroom after it was found. He claimed he believed all the weapons were secure.
Additionally, the 60-year-old admitted in an affidavit that he might have mentioned the guns a few years ago. Gross said his adult son was causing him trouble and trying to encroach on his property.
Bradley Peri, an attorney for the family of Gabriel Hojnacki, commented on the event and called it “a horrible tragedy that shouldn’t have happened”. The family, he continued, are relieved that Gross, the owner of the gun, is facing consequences.
Peri went on to explain that while Gabriel cannot be saved, his death will not have been in vain if tragedy can inspire a gun owner to change his behavior and save a life.
While it is true that people have a right to own firearms, he concluded by noting that they also have a responsibility to keep them locked up and unloaded. Peri said this will only serve to protect the children and prevent incidents like Gabriel’s death from happening again.