KNOX, Maine — On Saturday night in an upstairs apartment in a farmhouse on a remote country road, 19-year-old Tyler Seaney walked out of the bathroom and into a nightmare.
His friend, Luke Bryant, was waiting for him in the kitchen, holding a 12-gauge shotgun pointed at the bathroom door. He later told police that he meant to scare Seaney by “dry-firing” the shotgun, or pulling the trigger of an unloaded gun to make a clicking sound.
But the shotgun pellets that ripped through the teenager’s neck were no scary trick.
The chamber of the Mossberg Model 500 A shotgun had been loaded, according to a police affidavit filed Wednesday in Waldo County Superior Court. A blast rang out in the apartment.
Seaney’s 17-year-old girlfriend, who was at the apartment that night but reportedly not a witness to the shooting, heard a bang, and then Bryant, also 19, ran down the hallway toward her, the affidavit said.
“You gotta come here, I’m sorry, I didn’t know it was loaded,” Bryant allegedly told her, according to the affidavit written by Detective Jason Andrews of the Maine State Police.
Bryant called 911 at 6:53 p.m. and told the dispatcher that he had accidentally shot his friend with a shotgun. When Sgt. Dale Brown arrived at the home 16 minutes later, Bryant was performing CPR on Seaney. Members of the Unity Volunteer Ambulance Corps pronounced the teenager, who lived in both Glenburn and Belfast while he waited to start basic training for the U.S. Army, dead at the scene.
Bryant was arrested Wednesday afternoon and charged with manslaughter. His bail was set at $250,000 cash, and he is scheduled to be arraigned Friday afternoon in West Bath District Court by video link from Two Bridges Jail in Wiscasset, where he is now being held.
In Maine, a person can be found guilty of manslaughter if he or she recklessly or with criminal negligence causes the death of another human being.
Bryant, who lived alone in the apartment in Knox, told police in interviews conducted in the days after the shooting that he had wanted to “get Tyler back” for shooting him in the leg with an Airsoft gun earlier that day, Andrews wrote in the affidavit for an arrest warrant.
Bryant’s uncle told the BDN Wednesday that his nephew has a “fascination” with guns and that his apartment has guns and plenty of ammunition. He also said that he was certain that the shooting was a reckless accident.
Deputy Nick Oettinger of the Waldo County Sheriff’s Office got to the apartment a few minutes after Brown. He saw the shotgun, and moved to make it safe by “racking the slide,” which ejected one spent shotgun casing. He racked the slide again and discharged a live shotgun shell from the weapon.
During a preliminary investigation conducted that night by Detective Jason Bosco of the Waldo County Sheriff’s Office, Seaney’s girlfriend told police that the two young men liked to play a game that “entailed them pointing guns at one another,” Andrews wrote in the affidavit. “[The girlfriend] disclosed the purpose of the game was to scare each other.”
But Bryant at first told detectives that he had been trying to clear what he thought was a jam in the shotgun when he accidentally pulled the trigger, the affidavit said.
“Luke stated the shotgun went off as Tyler was exiting the bathroom,” Andrews wrote.
When Bosco brought the Maine State Police Criminal Investigation Division in to help with the investigation, Bryant added some more details to the chronicle of events.
“Luke did admit to playing a game that involved pointing guns at his friend, Tyler,” Andrews wrote in the police affidavit. “Luke claimed this game was limited to other firearms and it excluded the shotgun.”
Then Luke Bryant participated in a videotaped walk-through with Andrews and Bosco, demonstrating where he had been positioned in the kitchen while Tyler Seaney was in the bathroom.
Bryant told the detectives he had been holding the shotgun parallel to the ground at chest level while he was in the process of trying to press the slide release on the shotgun.
“Luke explained the shotgun was pointed at the bathroom door, where he knew his friend, Tyler, was at the time,” Andrews wrote. “Luke said somehow his finger entered the trigger guard area of the shotgun and he accidentally pulled the trigger.”
He maintained to the detectives that he had not been playing the game described by Tyler’s girlfriend and that he was not trying to scare his friend when he pulled the trigger, the affidavit stated.
On Monday, Michael Ferenc of the State Medical Examiner’s Office performed an autopsy on Tyler Seaney, determining that he had died as the result of a gunshot to the neck.
The next day, two detectives met again with Luke Bryant to discuss the shooting. Bryant told them that he had “intentionally grabbed” the shotgun and was waiting on the other side of the bathroom door to scare Tyler as he left the bathroom, Andrews wrote in the affidavit.
“Luke stated that he was attempting to dry-fire the shotgun while he had the shotgun pointed at Tyler and that ‘I shoulda checked it,’” Andrews wrote. “Luke admitted that he was attempting to get Tyler back for something that Tyler had done to him earlier in the day.”