Suit filed over high school football player shot in leg

By Lawrence Smith | Nov 19, 2012

ELKINS – The injury their son received last year from a hunting-related accident was totally preventable, says a Randolph County couple in a recently filed lawsuit.

Robert L. Reckart, Jr., 49, and his wife, Gina, 47, are named as co-defendants in a civil suit filed Aug. 21 by Roger, 45, and Susie Boatwright, 43. In their complaint filed in Randolph Circuit Court, the Boatwrights allege the trauma their son, Tanner, 16, sustained after Robert accidentally shot him last November during a hunting trip never should’ve happened as Reckart was prohibited from being in possession of a firearm.

According to the suit, Robert and his son Dylan invited Tanner and Roger to join them on a deer hunt to a camp the Reckarts own in neighboring Tucker County. The exact location of the camp is not specified.

Roger and Tanner agreed, and arrived with Dylan and Robert at the camp on Nov. 25. Later that evening, Robert encouraged the others, “to go with him on a four-wheeler ride after dark in and about the premises.”

Initially, Roger attempted to discourage everyone from going four-wheeling. However, he decided to go along “so as to keep an eye on [Tanner].”

According to the suit, Roger and Tanner left the camp in one four-wheeler with Robert, Dylan and an unnamed minor in another. At an unspecified time and place, both the Boatwrights and Reckarts stopped their four-wheelers and began to disembark on foot for unspecified reasons, the suit says.

Upon disembarking from his four-wheeler, Robert brought with him a rifle of an unspecified caliber, it says. Shortly thereafter, he accidently discharged the rifle, it says.

According to the suit, the bullet fired from the rifle hit Tanner in his right leg and severed his femoral artery. Because the camp was in a “remote and secluded” part of Tucker County, Tanner was transported by Roger in his SUV all the way back to Elkins to Davis Memorial Hospital.

After arriving at DMH, the staff was able to stabilize Tanner, and prevented him from “bleeding out.” Later, he was airlifted to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center for surgery.

According to the suit, after arriving at UPMC, Susie, who accompanied Tanner, was informed the damage caused by the bullet was severe to the point that his leg would need to be amputated below the knee in order to save his life. Prior to Roger later arriving by car, Susie gave the doctors authorization to go ahead with the amputation.

At the time of the shooting, Tanner was in his sophomore year at Elkins High School and recently completed the 2011 season on the Tigers’ football team. Though fitted with a prosthetic leg, the injury has prevented him from returning for this season.

Also at the time of the shooting, Robert was a convicted felon, and, by law, was prohibited from either owning or being in possession of a firearm, the suit claims. According to court records, Reckart was convicted in 1986 of distributing cocaine, and served a five-year suspended sentence.

On May 1, Reckart was indicted by a federal grand jury on one count of felon in possession of a firearm. Records show on June 28, Reckart accepted a plea offer from U.S. Attorney William J. Ihlenfeld II. He would recommend Reckart get a reduced sentence in exchange for his “acceptance of responsibility,” full cooperation in meeting the Office’s demand for information and forfeiture of the rifle which was identified in the agreement as a Harrington and Richardson Handi Rifle .223 REM.

Currently, Reckart is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 27 before Judge John Preston Bailey. He faces a maximum penalty of up to 10 years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine.

According to court records, Reckart’s father, Robert Sr., 71, purchased the rifle for Dylan five years ago at a sporting goods store in Elkins. Because Dylan was 8-years-old at the time and could not legally hunt with it until he turns 15 in two years, the Boatwrights allege Robert Sr., who is named as a co-defendant in the suit, made a straw purchase for Robert Jr.

In the suit, the Boatwrights, including Tanner, make claims against the Reckarts for negligence, negligent entrustment of a firearm, negligent infliction of emotional distress, premises liability and loss of child consortium. The Boatwrights' older son, Christopher, 19, is also a co-plaintiff in the suit, and makes an additional claim of loss of child consortium for being “deprived of the ability to engage in athletic events together” with Tanner.

Christopher also played football at EHS, and led the team in tackles his senior year during the 2010-11 season. Last year, he played at the collegiate level for Fairmont State University before leaving to become a police officer in Elkins.

The Boatwrights seek unspecified damages. They are represented by James A. Varner, Sr. and Debra Tedeschi Varner with McNeer, Highland, McMunn and Varner.

The case is assigned to Judge Jaymie Godwin Wilfong.

Randolph Circuit Court, case number 12-C-139

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