By: From staff reports
Posted: Monday, November 17, 2008 11:31 am
The Messenger 11.17.08
From staff reports
An investigation of the Saturday afternoon shooting of a former Obion County resident at Reelfoot Lake is under way by multiple agencies.
Obion County Sheriff Jerry Vastbinder said Sunday that Paris resident John Burnett, a Union City native, was severely wounded by a round fired from a high-powered rifle that hit below his left elbow before entering his abdomen.
The incident occurred about 2 p.m. Saturday in a forested area of Reelfoot National Wildlife Refuge near Walnut Log.
The unarmed Burnett — accompanied by his nephew, Luke Burnett, and friends Blake Turner, Chris Fisk and a dog — was on his way to check on a duck blind they were rebuilding when they heard the rifle shot ring out.
Burnett cried out, “I’ve been hit,” according to reports from the family, and the others began waving their arms and screaming for the shooter to stop shooting.
Afterward, Luke Burnett asked for a belt from one of the others and told them to go back to the house trailer at Walnut Log and call 911 for help. He wrapped his uncle’s arm in a tourniquet and assisted him — sometimes dragged him — back to the trailer.
When they arrived at the trailer, they loaded him in a vehicle and, while another nephew (Ben Burnett) drove, Luke Burnett helped his uncle keep his arm above his head and kept pressure on the wounds. They raced toward Union City, where they eventually met the ambulance en route to the lake. During the ride, they tried to keep their uncle alert and said he remained conscious, for the most part.
After arriving in Union City, the 44-year-old Burnett was airlifted to Regional Medical Center (The Med) in Memphis, where he underwent several hours of surgery that required 30 units of blood.
Wynn Burnett of Union City said his brother is doing better today but remains in the critical care unit at The Med.
“He’s got some movement in his arm now,” he said, noting the rifle shot blew out eight inches of artery in his left arm. “The doctors had to take an artery from his leg to put in his arm. It shattered the bones and artery below his elbow and went on into his stomach.”
He added that his brother was to undergo additional surgery on his abdomen this morning.
He also credited the quick action of his nephews and other young men for saving his brother’s life.
“If they had delayed any part of that — the tourniquet, the 911 call or driving him toward town — he probably would have bled to death,” he said. “They saved his life.”
He added that, so far, his brother’s only communication has been writing notes. “He wanted to know if they (the authorities) have found out who shot him and why there was duck hunting and deer hunting on the same day,” Wynn Burnett said. “He’s pretty confused by it all.”
The Obion County sheriff said the investigation is ongoing.
“Right now, we don’t have the identification of the shooter,” Vastbinder said. “We’re trying to run down leads.”
Early Sunday, agents of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the sheriff’s department, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Federal Bureau of Investigation were at the lake canvassing duck hunters for information.
“The shot definitely came from the woods,” Vastbinder said. “The Tennessee section of the wildlife refuge had an open deer hunt that started Saturday. The federal portion was closed to deer hunting. Also, Saturday was opening day of the first duck season on the lake.”
Vastbinder said he’s convinced the shooter was “definitely a deer hunter.” He urged anyone with information about the shooting to call the sheriff’s department at 885-5832. Anonymous tips may be reported to Crime Stoppers at 885-TIPS (885-8477).
Sheriff’s department Chief Deputy Kent Treece told The Messenger today that anyone who was in the area Saturday and who may have seen or heard anything — no matter how insignificant they feel it may be — is asked to call the sheriff’s department or one of the other investigating agencies.
Burnett is the son of Peggy Burnett of Union City and the late Bill Burnett.
Can't kill em on the couch.