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Shooter put in special program for cousin’s accidental death

Eric Williams covered his eyes and tried to back tears as familymembers spoke about the tragic death of his eight-year-old sonDylan in a hunting accident last December.

Wearing T-shirts with Dylan’s picture, family members Mondaydiscussed the impact the shooting has had on the family since theboy was shot by his cousin, Jonathan Blake Williams, in the Dec. 22incident near Dylan’s home.

“It has affected my family deeply,” said Margaret Williams,Dylan’s grandmother. “My grandson meant everything to us.”

Jonathan Blake Williams, 19, of 1003 Bogue Chitto Road, wassentenced Monday after earlier pleading guilty to manslaughter byculpable negligence in the shooting death. The charge means theshooting was not on purpose but negligent activity resulted in thedeath.

He was sentenced to 10 years in prison but ordered placed in theRegimented Inmate Discipline (RID) program. RID is a military-styledrill program that usually lasts six months to a year.

Upon successful completion of RID, Williams will be on fiveyears probation, the maximum time period allowed. He was ordered toremain in jail unless RID space is available.

In monetary penalties, Williams was ordered to pay restitutionfor funeral expenses and for the family’s grief counselingservices. He was also ordered to pay a $1,000 fine.

Dylan Wayne Williams was shot in the chest and upper torso areawith a load of buckshot from 10-gauge shotgun while riding hisbicycle behind his home around 3:30 p.m. The older Williams hadbeen hunting on family land and apparently spooked a deer beforethe shooting, authorities said at the time.

Margaret Williams said it had been 176 days since theshooting.

“There’s not a day that goes by that it doesn’t tear us up,”Williams said.

Several other family members addressed the court before Dylan’sparents spoke.

“I don’t have a life any more,” Eric Williams said beforebreaking down in tears.

Dara Williams described her son as “precious, wonderful andsmart.”

“He was my heart, and he was taken away from me,” she said.

On behalf of her son, Dara Williams urged Judge Keith Starrettto make Jonathan Williams serve some jail time for his actions.

“He’s not here to speak for himself so we’re speaking for him,”Dara said of her son.

When given his chance to talk, Jonathan Williams apologized.

“I’m terribly sorry. It haunts me from day to day like it doesthe rest of y’all,” said Williams, who was visibly shaking as heawaited sentencing.

Gloria Williams, Jonathan’s mother, said her son would not haveshot Dylan intentionally. She said she just wanted to be able totalk to the rest of the family again.

“This has been very hard on all of us,” Gloria Williamssaid.

Before pronouncing sentence, Starrett recalled his own sons’hunting exploits and his words of caution to them.

“Every time they go out, I stress to them safety, safety,safety…,” Starrett said. “I told them no deer is worth the chanceof hitting someone.”

As the Dylan Williams family huddled in the government complexlobby, several members spoke about gun law enforcement andpreventing another tragedy from occurring.

Diann Austin, Dara’s mother, indicated Mississippi’s laws weretoo relaxed, more law enforcement officers were needed and currentlaws should be enforced better.

“There’s something that needs to be done about this huntinglaws,” Austin said. “Don’t let this happen to another life.”

Dara echoed comments from her mother and Starrett.

“I hope and pray that this does not happen to another family,”she said.