“These boys evidently found a gun in one of the local parks, played with it, pointed it at each other, then the gun accidentally went off,” said Chief Tim Lewis, Festus Police Department.
The bullet struck Zackary Depung in the upper back near his neck. He was flown to St. Louis and endured hours of surgery. He succumbed to his injuries early Sunday morning.
“Right now, it’s an open investigation. We’re going to try and get all the evidence we can,” Lewis said.
Chief Lewis wouldn’t say which park the boys allegedly found the gun in because if one was really found there, he doesn't want to hurt the investigation.
“I’m sure the 17-year-old’s fingerprints will be on gun. If they took the magazine in and out, the prints will be on there and we'll focus on what ammunition we have left and see where it takes us,” he said.
Depung’s two sisters and girlfriend, who asked not to be on camera, described Zackary as a young man full of life and love. The three of them believe this was a tragic accident.
“The last thing I want to do is follow leads that don’t lead anywhere. We're not doing this on speculation or social media, just the facts of the case,” Lewis said.
Depung left Festus High School in January 2017 to be homeschooled, but had lots of friends throughout the district.
Chief Lewis said it won’t be difficult to trace the gun through the ATF, but problems can arise if the gun was stolen or lost.
Festus police said the case remains under investigation. Once the gun trace is complete, they will know more on how to go about wrapping up their investigation. But if the gun was found in the park, it raises more serious questions for police to deal with.