Quick thinking saves teen after accidental shooting

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Country stores are famous as gathering spots for retirees andfarmers to sit and talk about their day and current events.

It was no different last Wednesday at the Valley Quick stop onHighway 27 until the visiting was interrupted by a blood-coveredteen who stumbled to the door of the store and collapsed.

Bill and Laraine Brister, who were at the store at the time,said they were chatting with the Rev. James Roy Killingsworth andstore employee Hazel Wallace when Wallace’s face suddenly wentpale. She pointed out the window from behind the counter andshouted that someone was coming to the door and was covered inblood.

Bill Brister said he and Killingsworth leapt up to get the doorjust before Lee Nichols, 15, of Highway 27, collapsed on thethreshold. The teenager is the son of Johnny and ShellyNichols.

As Bill Brister and Killingsworth applied pressure to a largewound on Nichols’ left shoulder, they tried to console the youngman and find out what happened. Meanwhile, Laraine Brister called911 to get an ambulance to the scene.

Nichols was at his Highway 27 home alone Wednesday morning whenhe saw a wild dog in the back yard, Lawrence County Sheriff JoelThames said. In the process of retrieving a .22 caliber rifle withthe intent of driving the dog off, the rifle discharged and struckNichols in the left shoulder, the bullet angling down into hisbody.

The artery connecting the heart to the left arm was severed,Thames said, citing information he received from SouthwestMississippi Regional Medical Center.

“It was totally accidental. It was not intentional,” Thamessaid.

The sheriff praised Nichols on his ability to remain calm. TheLawrence County High School student realized he was bleedingprofusely and could not make it to Lawrence County Hospital.Instead, he drove the short distance to Valley Quick Stop.

Thames could not say why Nichols didn’t dial 911.

“He said he thought about it, but all he had in his head was toget to someone,” Shelly Nichols said. “He was afraid they wouldn’tbe able to find him.”

Lee Nichols drove to Valley Quick Stop because it was right upthe road and he used to work there, his mother said.

“He knew people would be there. He didn’t want to be alone,”Shelly Nichols said.

As Bill Brister, who is also the victim’s neighbor, andKillingsworth tried to stem the flow of blood from Nichols’shoulder, they kept talking to him to keep him conscious, BillBrister said.

“It was heart-wrenching,” Bill Brister said. “He said the reasonhe came to the store was that he didn’t want to die by himself. Wejust kept talking to him to keep his spirits up.”

Killingsworth also prayed with Nichols.

Shelly Nichols said she has met with the people who were in thestore at the time and expressed her appreciation to them for theircompassion and quick thinking.

“If it hadn’t have been for them, I wouldn’t have my child,” shesaid. “You really can’t thank them enough.”

The boy has since been released from the hospital and is homerecovering from his close brush with death.

Bill Brister and Killingsworth kept their vigil for theapproximately 45 minutes it took for the ambulance to arrive.Laraine Brister called 911 several times.

Shelly Nichols said she was upset about the delay between the911 call and the arrival time at first, but it doesn’t concern hernow. She said she was told the ambulance was in transit withanother patient when the initial call came and it arrived only 20minutes after being informed of Nichols’ injury.

“I feel like it was entirely too long, but I don’t fault theparamedics. They were excellent,” Shelly Nichols said.

Lee Nichols was transferred to SMRMC in McComb where he wasrushed into surgery. Doctors removed a portion of artery from hisleg to replace the one in his shoulder, which has “disintegrated”from the impact of the bullet, Shelly Nichols said.

He stayed in the hospital for a few days, but was releasedSaturday, she said.

“He’s fine. He’s recovering slowly but surely,” she said.

As a hunter, Lee Nichols is familiar with firearms, ShellyNichols said, and the incident probably won’t keep him from one ofhis favorite pastimes.

“He is very gun-conscious. This was just a freak accident,” shesaid. “I don’t think he’s scared of them now because of this, buthe may have more respect for them.”

Shelly Nichols said doctors say her son should be able to resumehis normal activities in about a month.