BURTON, MI — Three teens have been charged with manslaughter in the death of their friend, killed during an apparent game of Russian roulette.
Genesee County Prosecutor David S. Leyton told MLive his office this week authorized a charge of involuntary manslaughter against the teen males, two who are now 17 and one who is now 19. The youngest of the trio is charged as a juvenile as he was 16 when the fatal shooting occurred, while the other two are charged as adults.
The names of the two adult defendants are being withheld pending their arraignment in Genesee County District Court.
Involuntary manslaughter is felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
The charges stem from the Oct. 24 death of 17-year-old Zander A. Smith. Smith was at the home of one of the adult defendants in the 1400 block of South Packard Avenue.
“We know that the victim had the revolver, put a single bullet in the cylinder, and spun it,” Leyton said. “Based upon the information we received, it’s pretty clear he was playing Russian roulette and none of the other three made any attempt to stop him. That’s where I have a problem and I think they should have intervened. It’s grossly negligent that they did not, and that’s how we got to the manslaughter charge.”
Smith suffered one gunshot wound to his head. Police arrived to find him unresponsive. He was taken to Hurley Medical Center where staff pronounced him deceased.
The revolver Smith used belonged to the teen whose house he was at, Leyton said. Two adults were also in the house, but not in the bedroom where the shooting occurred, he said.
Leyton added the teens were smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol prior to the shooting.
A lengthy investigation accounts for the delay between when the shooting occurred and charges being issued, Leyton said.
“When it was first submitted to us, my office rejected the warrant and sent it back for more information,” he said. “There was some social media chatter about it recently that got my attention. I inquired about that and one of my assistants and I worked with Burton police to get additional information that led to these charges.”
Leyton did not know the date the defendants will be arraigned.
Smith attended Bentley High School and was very athletic, according to his obituary.
“He loved football and basketball which he often played with his younger sister and brother,” the obituary states. “Zander enjoyed making videos with his older sister and was a great brother.”
The term “Russian roulette” has its origins in a scene from the 19th Century novel “A Hero of Our Time” by Mikhail Lermontov.
Burton police investigate teen’s death in Russian roulette game
Young siblings find bag of cash stolen in bank robbery, turn it in
Bay County hoping to resume jury trials in May