Deputies said a man fooling around with a handgun accidentally shot his friend in the head inside a Lenoir County home, killing the victim.
Investigators arrested 19-year-old Michael Bradley Rouse (pictured left) Monday afternoon and charged him with involuntary manslaughter in the death of 20-year-old Randall Thomas Lewis (pictured right).
According to the Lenoir County Sheriff's Office, deputies were called to Rouse's home on the 800 block of Smith-Grady Road, about 6-and-a-half miles southeast of Seven Springs, at about 1:10 a.m. Monday. Inside the residence was Lewis' body with a gunshot wound to the head, investigators said.
Deputies said Lewis and Rouse were horsing around with a semi-automatic handgun. But Rouse, thinking the safety was engaged on the weapon, aimed at Lewis and pulled the trigger, fatally shooting Lewis in the head, according to investigators.
Rouse's mother told NewsChannel 12 the two men were best friends. She said her son called her after the accident.
"[He] said that he shot his best friend, and that I needed to get home," Rouse's mother said. "[My son] would not shoot his best friend in the head on purpose. Definitely accidental."
She also added that she knew the victim well and that he was "a good boy."
NewsChannel 12 reached out to Lewis' family. Although they declined to do an on-camera interview, they briefly spoke about how they were in the midst of recovering from the tragedy. Relatives said they were still trying to understand exactly what happened.
According to Lewis' Facebook page, he was working at Ray Mozingo's Plumbing and Irrigation, a business owned by his father.
In addition to involuntary manslaughter, Rouse has been charged with possession of a firearm by a felon, according to the Lenoir County Sheriff's Office.
“This is another example of a firearm not being handled in a responsible and safe manner," said Sheriff Chris Hill. "All too many times do persons make assumptions about a firearms safety mechanism or readiness to discharge, only to find out they were wrong. A young person’s life was quickly brought to an end because of the reckless handling of a dangerous weapon. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of the families affected by this tragic ending.”
Rouse is also facing drug charges, including felony possession of marijuana, maintaining a dwelling for the use or sale of controlled substances, and misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia. Deputies said they executed a search warrant and found marijuana and drug paraphernalia during the investigation.
Rouse was being held in the Lenoir County Detention Center under an $85,300 secured bond.
The suspect and his mother have been renting and living in the home for about six months, according to neighbors.