Nassau County sheriff: Teen accidentally shot, killed self with handgun

Witness said 18-year-old was spinning gun on his finger, pulling trigger

HILLIARD, Fla. – An 18-year-old was shot and killed while holding a loaded handgun Thursday night in the bedroom of his Hilliard home, according to Nassau County Sheriff' Bill Leeper.

Deputies were called to the house on Oak Hill Road after 8 p.m. and found Joey Rhoden Jr. lying on the floor with a gunshot wound to his head. A .22-caliber revolver was found under his leg.

Leeper said a witness told deputies that Rhoden was spinning the gun on his finger, putting it to his head and pulling the trigger. He said his death is still under investigation, but it appears to be accidental with no indication of foul play.

A family member, however, told News4Jax the story doesn't add up. Travis Thompson said his nephew knew how to handle a firearm, and it doesn't make sense that Rhoden would accidentally take his own life.

"He's been hunting his entire life," Thompson said. "He was gun savvy."

Thompson believes his nephew knew better than to twirl a loaded gun. He said he was one of the first people to see Rhoden after the teen was shot.

"We went there straight, right into the bedroom where he was at. I checked for a pulse but he was gone," Thompson said.

Rhoden was described as a gentle giant -- a kind teen with a big heart. Thompson said the family just wants to know the truth.

"However long it takes for them to find out what happened," Thompson said. "Something is just not right."

According to family members, Rhoden was not alone in the room when the shooting happened. No one has been arrested.

Thompson said Rhoden did not have health insurance. Family members created a fundraising account to help with funeral costs.

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