Friend charged in shooting death of St. Clair County teen
Prosecutors filed a manslaughter charge Friday against a suspect in the shooting death of an 18-year-old in unincorporated St. Clair County.
Jewell Smith, 20, of Fairview Heights, was charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection with the fatal shooting of Cole Wierciszewski. Police described the shooting as unintentional, an "unfortunate accident" that happened among friends.
Wierciszewski was shot Monday evening at 141 Paulette Drive on the outskirts of Belleville, and a friend drove him to Memorial Hospital, where he died from his injuries.
St. Clair County Sheriff's Capt. Bruce Fleshren said there were seven people in the home at the time, all ages 16 to 20. Wierciszewski was shot with a 20-gauge pump-action shotgun that he had recently purchased, legally. The gun was in his bedroom, where the shooting took place. Fleshren said the group was "handling" the gun when the shooting happened.
"Young men are not trained in how to handle guns properly," Fleshren said.
Bail for Smith was set at $100,000, meaning he would need to post $10,000 in cash for his release on bond.
Involuntary manslaughter is punishable by up to five years in prison.
Unfortunately again, when a situation like this occurs, many times everyone panics and feels the need to hide or protect persons who were involved," Fleshren said, adding that investigators were "able to locate several people and work through several layers of stories to finally arrive at the truth. "
Smith has no criminal history in St. Clair County. Fleshren said the seven in attendance had "little to no" criminal history, and that police do not think drugs played a role.
Wierciszewski was a cancer survivor, said Mackenzie Wright, who went to Belleville East High School with him. He always welcomed others with open arms and was the "life of the party."
The suspect was taken into custody Thursday night in connection with the death of Wierciszewski, according to Fleshren. The person was identified through interviews and tips from the public.