Man Charged In Santa Rosa Homicide; Trio Was Playing With Shotgun

August 26, 2014

One person has been arrested in connection with a homicide Monday night in Santa Rosa County.

James “Hunter” Gates, 20, was charged with homicide-negligent manslaughter, using a firearm under the influence of alcohol and possession of alcohol by a person under 21.

The Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office responded to a shooting incident about 10:15 p.m. Monday.  Gates, a female and the victim were at Gate’s home on Keyser Lane in Pace. Gates and the victim were intoxicated when they began to play with a 12 gauge pump-action shotgun. Gates observed the victim load a shotgun shell into the chamber and then eject the shell.

“In a playing manner,” according to an arrest report, the victim held the muzzle end of the shotgun to his chin and waved the butt of the gun toward Gates and the female. The victim then said “something to the effect of  ‘bet you won’t pull it’, which referred to pulling the trigger,” the report states. Gates took hold of the shotgun and pulled the trigger. The gun fired a shell, hitting the victim under the chin. He was pronounced deceased on the scene by a responding paramedic.

According to the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office, Gates had previously loaded a shotgun shell into the gun’s chamber. When the victim loaded the gun, Gates forgot about the previous shell. When he saw the victim eject a shell, Gates thought the gun was empty, the report states.

The name of the victim has not yet been released pending notification of next of kin.


45 Responses to “Man Charged In Santa Rosa Homicide; Trio Was Playing With Shotgun”

  1. Goody on September 8th, 2014 2:47 am

    I grew up Taylor “Romeo” as we all knew him. He was a good guy, friend, father, an son. And Hunter, ive only known him a few yrs. whats done is done. Alot of lives are impacted by this. I was lucky enough to call Romeo my brother. If you dont know anything about them dont judge them. A picture can say 1000 words. But dont judge someone based off a news report. Hunter has to live with this tragedy for the rest of his life. As do we all. God be with u hunter in the long rd ahead. An god welcome romeo into your kingdom with open arms. An lord be with the families of the two an be with everyone that was impacted by Romeo in jesus name amen.

  2. Jennifer on August 30th, 2014 11:21 am

    How do you kill somebody then 2 days later you out of jail?

  3. David Huie Green on August 27th, 2014 10:12 pm

    Getting drunk doesn’t justify killing, just shows why getting drunk is not wise.

    Regret doesn’t undo the harm.

    On the other hand, there’s too many drunks so just let them go if we don’t care what harm they do.

    David for fewer needing comforting

  4. Cray cray on August 27th, 2014 10:00 pm

    It is not about who done what. They all were drinking UNDERAGE.. They all decided to play with a gun but this kid made the shot…. I hate it for his family but he should serve time due to killing someone… If they do not hold this guy and the other responsible about this act of ignorance. then everyone that kills will say I did not load the gun and I was drunk I would never kill anyone…. REALLY……..just a one other thing if I would have killed a FRIEND my face, lips and eyes would be swollen from CRYING MY EYES OUT….. Just saying

  5. paul on August 27th, 2014 8:33 pm

    @JMoney.. I don’t have any need to hang with youngsters who get drunk and play with guns.. I’m being honest here.. I don’t play with guns and I don’t hang with Anybody who would.. They’re NOT toys.. There’s no excuse for what happened.. The everybody else does/did it just doesn’t cut it when people die.. :(

  6. Curious on August 27th, 2014 6:07 pm

    First of all, the victim family needs lots of prayers now & in the future, if that female was a mother, the other family put their trust in her to watch their kid, now I’d like to know why the other person would let someone play like that unless she’s one of those parents that considers herself to be a friend not mom & to the one that says all people have played that, well buddy I hate to bust your bubble but everybody hasn’t done that & if you have you seriously need help, talk to someone, because it is not normal, & whoever gave them alcohol is gonna be in some kind of trouble, whether its with the law or their minds or both

  7. Nancy Braun on August 27th, 2014 5:24 pm

    Sending prayers to both families..

  8. Candy on August 27th, 2014 5:02 pm

    I will pray for our family and the shooter’s family.

  9. southern born on August 27th, 2014 5:00 pm

    God did not say we can’t judge. Loosely quoted you will be judged by the measure you judge. So basicly judge fairly . The fruit you grow is what you will bear. If you drink to get drunk you are at risk of being called a drunk. And yes drunk doing uncontrollable thing and will still be accountable for your actions. That split second he got sober to freak out should have been before he pulled the trigger.

  10. CTHOMPSON on August 27th, 2014 5:00 pm

    Well, the VICTIM, is a family member. We are very saddened. I cannot explain what Taylor meant to us especially my husband. I’m not convinced that this story is exactly what happened anyway. However, I was not there and did not know the shooter. Let’s not call the victim stupid either please, very disrespectful. I also noticed the first comments it’s unfortunate for the shooter, what about Taylor, his child, and his family that will never have the chance to talk to him again. I understand they were friends but a friend would never pull a trigger, loaded or NOT.

  11. JMoney on August 27th, 2014 3:01 pm

    This is for you immortal,judgemental characters..Don,Paul,Mick and all I other negative ones out there…this ones for you all. Only god can judge Hunter. Who are you to say he is not remorseful? The poor guy was drunk. He might not even have recollection of the events. If you’ve never hung with those guys then you don’t know their tolerance for alcohol nor how drunk they got together nor their friendship so before you’re quick to judge this kid take a look at the ENTIRE night. They were drunk. The victim loaded the shotgun and ejected the projectile. It wasn’t theirs so how did they know how many was in there. Regardless of what,it was two friends getting drunk together. They decided to play with a gun. Be honest….how many of you have also done that? Wether u were younger or if it was a fake gun….you did the same thing after getting drunk but fortunately for you no one was injured or killed. Unfortunately for Hunter,there was a billet and it did take his friends life as well as his own. People get drunk. People play. People get drunk and do things different like relax or play cards..that doesn’t matter. Just see the fact that they were friends. They were drunk and that’s how these guys play. That’s their definition of fun,not Tia particular incident Of course but had Hunter knew it was loaded..he wouldn’t have done that. Let’s just be real here.he has no record. He has a loving family and that was his residence,he wouldn’t have done that purposely know in it was a damn bullet in the damn thing. Judge not for we are imperfect. That statement does not justify the situation but it should make you realize that we are all different and therefore ones “play” May not be how you’d “play” but that’s your perogitive. My heart goes out to the victims. And yes Hunter is a victim also.

  12. BentStraight on August 27th, 2014 2:55 pm

    Someone furnished the alcohol for these underage drinkers and as a result has a degree of culpability in this situation . . . wonder if that will be investigated or just swept under the rug???

    Anyone purchasing alcohol for minors better be willing to accept ALL the consequences that can come as a result!

  13. David Huie Green on August 27th, 2014 8:04 am

    Don’t drink and play with weapons so you won’t have regrets like this.

  14. CD on August 27th, 2014 2:06 am

    Accident? No. Tragedy, yes! It was no accident he left a loaded gun where others could find it. It was no accident that he got drunk. It was no accident he pulled the trigger. everything done to lead to this event was deliberate. Accidents are situations that cannot be avoided. All events leading to this tragedy could have been avoided. It’s just that simple. Now, families will live with this tragedy the rest of their lives

  15. Brooke on August 26th, 2014 9:55 pm

    I knew Hunter. That’s his freaking face. He was definitely still in shock, one of his friends was shot, and he was the one that did it. Yes he tried to act hard all the time, but he was good friends with the deceased. He didnt intentionally kill his friend. Anyone who has drank alcohol knows that is really messes up your judgement and memory, of course being drunk is no excuse because you can prevent it from even happening, but Hunter did not intentionally kill his friend. Accidents happen, even horrible ones.
    Just pray for the families effected and don’t put yourself in the same situation.

  16. southern born on August 26th, 2014 9:10 pm

    So he was drinking and let a bet entice him to pull the trigger. Then after it was over he freaked out? How did that one move now make him freak out when just seconds earlier he should have been freaking out? Now he wants to be remorceful and a good guy? Under age has nothing to do with it either . He is accountable for his actions ! Such a tragic story of friendship gone so bad. Prayers for the families.

  17. Theresa Crenshaw on August 26th, 2014 7:53 pm

    No one knows all the details but the 3 people there. What we do know is 3 lives are now ruined. This is someones children regardless of their ages. And I don’t know of any one who can say they never made a mistake in their life. This hits close to home , especially since it involves family.
    I can only pray that the people who show no empathy for what has happened never have to experience this kind of tragedy. I hope you never have to get that phone call, be it to inform you of a death or an arrest. .

  18. Alarmed and Armed on August 26th, 2014 7:41 pm

    There is no smirk on his face. What picture are you looking at?

  19. Chris Morton on August 26th, 2014 7:05 pm

    Damn man.
    I grew up with this dude. His mom and my mom were friends. Out of all my time knowing Hunter I’ve never known him to be willing to grab a gun and shoot someone knowing it was loaded. I pray for the victim’s family and I pray over Hunter and his family. Their cool people. Its just shocking.

  20. Chris Morton on August 26th, 2014 7:03 pm

    Yo I grew up with this dude. Me and him grew up together as my mom and his mom were friends. He’s always been a good friend to me. Him and his family are cool people. I know I’ve never known him to be willing to shoot someone knowing there’s a bullet in the chamber. Hunter, my prayers are with you bro. And your family and the family of the victim.

  21. Why Judge? on August 26th, 2014 6:37 pm

    It saddens me how we have become a world of judgmental people. We cannot know what went on that night, nor can we speculate by a mugshot how someone feels. The judgmental comments hurt both families, please think of this before posting. Also, you never know when you might have a son, a brother, an uncle or some other loved one sitting in the same spot by an action that was not thought through, but an accident all the same. Remember everyone hurts in these situations, and one day it could be a reality for you. Stop, think, pray…….

  22. Priscilla on August 26th, 2014 6:23 pm

    Tragic accidents are made to help others open their eyes to a possible unwanted reality. This young man has made a foolish mistake that cost another their gift of life. The look in his eyes does show remorse. It also shows shock of his new reality. He has yet to realize the full impact of his last minute decision. Let us all not forget him and him alone will have to bear the enormous weight of this for the rest of his life. I pray for the lost life. I pray for the families not to lose faith. I pray that this horrific piece of education spreads the word of the unthinkable cost of careless actions. I pray this tragedy can be used to change another’s fate. I pray for his soul. May God have mercy.

  23. troubled on August 26th, 2014 5:20 pm

    YOU CAN’T PLAY WITH GUNS!!! And you can’t fix stupid with anything. My prayer;s with family of young man who died.

  24. Diamond on August 26th, 2014 5:10 pm

    To the person who said he meant to do it look at the smirk. I see no smirk on that face, I know him personally and he wouldn’t ever do something like this intentionally. Hunter is a great guy who honestly probably did forget about it because he was forget full about a lot of things.

  25. barbara on August 26th, 2014 4:48 pm

    Many drunk drivers are nice people who would never hurt anyone…yet the get behind the wheel drunk and kill people every minute of the day across the country?

    Being drunk is not a viable excuse. Failure to respect a firearm and to be responsible is what happened.

  26. Brandon G on August 26th, 2014 3:56 pm

    Jennifer, how did having a legal drinking age prevent this accident from happening?

  27. Debbbie Rutherford on August 26th, 2014 3:55 pm

    I totally agree with forgive.

  28. Pops on August 26th, 2014 3:53 pm

    “he was in remorse”
    There is no remorse in those eyes. Look at that smirk on his face.

    “This was not a accident. He pulled the trigger.”
    Plain and simple.

  29. Stephanie on August 26th, 2014 3:49 pm

    It was obviously a accident. I know him and I know he would never intend to hurt anyone. He was drunk he shouldn’t be charged with murder.

  30. djfjvkkxkc on August 26th, 2014 3:43 pm

    To the drinking under age comment…. notice the “kid” was less than a year from the legal drinking age. Do you honestly think if it would have been a few months later the same thing would not have happened? Come on.

  31. No Excuses on August 26th, 2014 3:27 pm

    I had two cousins who had something similar happen. They were cleaning their rifles and one playfully pointed his rifle at the other. The other asked him to stop doing that with the rifle because it was dangerous. The cousin pointing the rifle said, “Why? It’s not loaded – see?” He pulled the trigger and killed his brother with a rifle that WAS loaded.

    1. Guns/rifles are NOT toys. Don’t play with them.
    2. Treat all firearms with respect and as if they are loaded, even if you KNOW they are not. This keeps accidents from happening.

    Alcohol and weapons do not mix. If you have been drinking, you have NO business handling a firearm. Keep your doggone hands off!

    Tragedy for all concerned and they are in my prayers.

  32. Ellen on August 26th, 2014 3:24 pm

    That’s why you treat every gun as a loaded gun and never mess with guns when there’s alcohol involved. Period!

  33. Korey on August 26th, 2014 3:02 pm

    His mugshot doesn’t show any kind of remorse. You don’t play with guns and pull the trigger when it’s in someone’s face period. He deserves prison. Alcohol isn’t a cover up. If you can’t control your drinking than you don’t need to do it and this is perfect proof of why. He took someone’s kid away. He destroyed a family’s life, not just his own. Think before you act. Think before you drink. Don’t be an idiot.

  34. Jennifer on August 26th, 2014 2:22 pm

    I would like to ask everyone for prayers for both families. This is a horrible accident. These boys grew up together, very close, like brothers and my prayers are with them and their families at this time of loss.

  35. dad on August 26th, 2014 2:09 pm

    This was not a accident. He pulled the trigger.

  36. Allen on August 26th, 2014 2:08 pm

    1: Thats his normal face and hes normaly a happy guy.
    2: I knew him and he wouldnt ever do this intentually

  37. Jason on August 26th, 2014 1:35 pm

    Rule #1 – Treat all guns as if they are loaded.

    Rule #2 – Never point a gun at anything you don’t intend to destroy.

  38. Tina Grimes on August 26th, 2014 1:27 pm

    The relationship between them was mother and son and son’s best childhood friend….and he was not am very, he was in remorse, scared, and freaked out….it was a gruesome scene….know the facts beforeyou speak….and yes drinking and playing with guns is irresponsible……Prayers go out to everyone involved in this unnecessary action……

  39. Forgive on August 26th, 2014 1:02 pm

    This is a very tragic accident and prayers are being said for both families. May Jesus bring peace to all involved. Prison is not the answer for this, but educating our young men and women on these issues is. This was not a crime that was done with intent, but an accident stemming from a lack of knowledge. It is scientifically proven, at this young of an age, the brain has not yet fully developed and is not yet completely capable of deciphering the future consequences. May forgiveness be given as this will be the only thing that truly heals.

  40. Don on August 26th, 2014 1:01 pm

    How stupid and senseless!!!

  41. Jennifer Walden on August 26th, 2014 1:01 pm

    For one that’s why there is a legal age limit to drinking……because children are not responsible For two that is why we have gun laws and that is why this man will probably go to prison. Its a sad thing for the families , im sure it was an accident but we can all think of better things to play with when we’re drunk. Being drunk isn’t an excuse or a reason, it is a choice. A choice that people make knowing that they will be altered in the mind, by alcohol.

  42. paul on August 26th, 2014 12:33 pm

    “Gates thought the gun was empty”
    Yea, Right.. his mugshot looks more like anger than remorse.. I wonder the relation between them and the female?

  43. Karen on August 26th, 2014 12:31 pm

    Oh my goodness, what a game to play. Now due to their stupidity there are two families wrecked forever by this. My heart goes out to the family of the deceased, may God give them his peace and comfort during this horrible time.

  44. Branden Fikes on August 26th, 2014 12:13 pm

    Dang, that sucks playing coated a life and now another ones gonna be wasted in prison for the rest of his life

  45. mick on August 26th, 2014 11:14 am

    Go to prison, don’t come out…

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