Police: 16-year-old who accidentally shot himself dies

Teen's sister, friend told Jacksonville police he was demonstrating gun

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Police say a 16-year-old who accidentally shot himself in the head Friday night at a Westside home has died.

Jacksonville police said they're waiting for the Medical Examiner's report in the death of Zachery Willis as their investigation continues.

Police were called to Willis' home in the 9900 block of Somerset Grove Lane about 11:40 p.m. Friday.

The teen's sister and his close friend said they were at home when Willis was "demonstrating something with a revolver."

They said Willis didn't think the gun was loaded when he pulled the trigger, and the gun backfired. His sister said she carried him to a car to take him to the hospital, but an ambulance arrived and took him to Orange Park Medical Center with life-threatening injuries.

"When he did this on accident, it popped him in the head. We didn't think anything of it at first because we thought he was playing," said an 18-year-old friend who was in the house at the time but did not want to be identified. "He was demonstrating something for us, and then it just all fell in place and he just fell to the floor and started bleeding."

Willis' friends said they are shocked and deeply saddened by his death.

"We pretty much hung out every day. Pretty much everyone around here got to hang out with Zack. He's always walking the streets. [He] has a very good heart," said Justin Hazel, Willis' friend.

Hazel and Karen Torrence, who have known Willis for years, said the teenager was popular at their school.

"He had a lot of friends. A lot of people were here for a candlelight service we had for him. Just everyone was in tears [and] misses him a lot," said Torrence.  

"It's hard because it's the good that always go first, but it's rough. Everyone loved him. His heart was strong and it's beating somewhere else today," said Hazel.  

Hazel and Torrence said it is difficult accepting the reality that their friend is no longer there for them.

"It's very different not having him around everyday. He was a very friendly guy. He befriended me. Just always had a smile on his face. Just a good kid," said Hazel.

The Willis family will receive friends from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the Archie Tanner Funeral Home on U.S. 301 in Starke. His funeral service will be held at 2 p.m. Friday, at Jacksonville Memory Gardens, 111 Blanding Blvd., Orange Park.

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