Three friends’ hoghunting trip ends in accidental death

The young man was hysterical when deputies arrived Thursday evening on the dark stretch of road at the edge of the woods in Plaquemines Parish.

He led them into the trees, to the lifeless body of his best friend — a next-door neighbor, longtime hunting partner and high school classmate. Another friend lay nearby, bleeding from a shotgun wound to the leg.

Wyatt Evans, 18, told police he had mistaken his friends for the hogs the three were hunting, pointed his shotgun and fired two blasts about 5:40 p.m.

The double-ought buckshot struck both friends.

Galen Scott, 18, was hit in the head and the legs and died at the scene, according to Plaquemines Parish Sheriff Lonnie Greco.

Cody Jones, 17, was shot through the leg but was rushed to surgery and is expected to make a full recovery.

All three were seniors at South Plaquemines High School.

“We’re still in shock,” school Principal John Barthelemy said Friday. “These are good, decent kids, the kind of kids you want to have in your school. Today is a sad day.”

The Plaquemines Parish Sheriff’s Office booked Evans with negligent homicide and negligent injuring, both crimes punishable by up to five years in prison.

Evans’ mother was clearly crying when she answered the phone Friday. She said it was a bad time and declined to comment.

Scott lived next door to the Evans family for years. He and Wyatt Evans grew up together. They played football together, wore matching red bow ties to their prom. They started little businesses together, their football coach said: They went fishing and sold their catch.

They often hunted together, too.

Thursday evening, the three teenagers went hunting for feral hogs in the woods off parish Highway 11 in a rural community called Nairn, a few miles south of Port Sulphur, where the boys grew up.

They told police that they smoked marijuana as they looked for hogs.

The sun went down, and the woods grew dark. The isolated community has few homes and few streetlights, Sheriff’s Office Cmdr. Eric Becnel said.

The three apparently split up. Then Scott and Jones began walking back toward Evans. He caught sight of them from 75 feet away. He thought they were hogs and fired two rounds, one right after the other.

When Evans realized that he’d accidentally shot his friends, he tried to save them. He called his mother in a panic, and she called the Sheriff’s Office, Becnel said.

Officials cited two reasons for booking Evans for the accident: that he was under the influence of marijuana and that he failed to confirm a positive identification before he pulled the trigger.

Judge Kevin Conner of 25th Judicial District Court signed the warrant for his arrest, and Evans was booked into the Belle Chasse lockup around 4 a.m. He posted a $60,000 bond Friday afternoon and was released.

Barthelemy, the principal, heard the news late Thursday from a teacher. He called in a crisis team, held an emergency teachers’ meeting at 6:50 a.m. and offered counseling to the boys’ teachers and classmates.

South Plaquemines High is a small school, with 62 students in the boys’ graduating class. Most have gone to school together since kindergarten.

“We’re such a small, close-knit community that anything like this would affect almost everyone at the school,” Barthelemy said.

Kids broke down Friday in the lunchroom, in classrooms, as they stepped off the school bus. Teachers ushered them to the counselors, called their parents and offered to let them go home. But the teachers, too, were broken-hearted, Barthelemy said.

Scott was a well-liked, well-behaved teenager, he said. He was never once sent to the principal’s office.

All three boys were planning to go to college, he said.

Many of his classmates replaced their Facebook profile photos with pictures of Scott and wrote online tributes.

“Galen was a great kid,” said Cedric Figaro, his football coach and teacher. “He was quiet, respectful, helpful, all the adjectives you’d want a kid to be.”