A Plaquemines Parish man who fatally shot his best friend in a hunting accident in late 2013 pleaded guilty this spring to negligent homicide and was given probation, authorities said Wednesday.
Wyatt Evans, 19, was sentenced to one year of probation and ordered to pay a $750 fine in the shooting death of 18-year-old Galen Scott. The guilty plea happened in March but has not been reported previously.
Scott’s family opposed the prosecution and did not question Evans’ remorse.
Scott and Evans, close friends and neighbors in Port Sulphur, were seniors at South Plaquemines High School at the time of the accident.
“It’s just a tragedy and an unfortunate accident,” said Robert Grant, Evans’ defense attorney.
But Plaquemines Parish District Attorney Charles Ballay said prosecutors believed it was important for Evans to be held accountable, in part because the young man had been smoking marijuana shortly before he fired the fatal shots.
Ballay said the ultimate sentence in this case “was not nearly as important” as Evans walking into a courtroom and acknowledging his criminal negligence. Evans also admitted to one count of negligent injuring, stemming from the fact he shot and wounded a second youth in the same incident.
“Any time you have a mix of drugs and a gun and somebody getting killed or seriously injured, you have to send a statement that that type of action is not condoned and won’t be tolerated,” Ballay said. “That’s what we did, and the penalty that was given, we think, was appropriate.”
The shooting happened Dec. 19, 2013, in a wooded area south of Port Sulphur, near parish Highway 11 and Shirley B. Drive. Evans was hysterical when deputies arrived, telling them he’d mistaken Scott and another friend, Cody Jones, for feral hogs.
Scott, who was struck in the head and legs with double-ought buckshot, was pronounced dead at the scene. Deputies found Jones lying in a ditch with a gunshot wound through his leg, according to an incident report released Wednesday by the Plaquemines Parish Sheriff’s Office.
The young men had split up to go hunting, and Scott and Jones began looking for Evans as the sun went down. The youths had smoked marijuana as they looked for hogs, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
According to the report, Jones told deputies that he and Scott had tried calling Evans five times on his phone but he did not answer.
“Mr. Jones stated that he heard Galen say ‘No’ and then a shot was fired,” the report says. A second shot struck Jones in the leg.
The shooting sent shock waves through the tight-knit community. A crisis team was called to the boys’ high school to offer counseling to students.
The criminal case had been delayed for weeks by a disagreement over whether Evans would be eligible to have his record expunged after serving his probation. Grant, the defense attorney, said an expungement won’t be possible in this case because the crime involved the use of a firearm.
He said Evans has been deeply affected by the shooting.
“It’s beyond being truly sorry,” Grant said. “It’s accidentally killing your best friend. He’ll live with that the rest of his life, regardless.”
Follow Jim Mustian on Twitter, @JimMustian.