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Man who shot friend in Bartholomew County thought he was holding an airsoft gun, records say

Bartholomew County Sheriff Matt Myers stresses importance of responsible gun ownership
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Posted at 1:55 PM, Dec 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-01 17:40:18-05

HOPE — A young man who fatally shot his friend Saturday told police he thought the real .40-caliber automatic in his hand was an airsoft gun.

Joseph T. Kidwell, 18, shot Jesse Bragg, 18, in the chest shortly before 10 p.m. Saturday at a home in the 300 block of Elm Street in Hope, according to a probable cause affidavit filed Thursday. Bragg died at the scene from the gunshot wound.

There were six or seven people in the home at the time of the shooting. Investigators found marijuana and alcohol in the home along with a 9-mm handgun, a .40-caliber handgun and an airsoft pistol, according to the affidavit.

Airsoft guns are replicas that use compressed air to fire soft pellets. Some of these guns look very much like real firearms. Media reports from across the country detail accounts where people have been shot, usually by police, after an airsoft gun was mistaken for the real thing.

Bartholomew County Sheriff Matt Myers stressed the importance of responsible gun ownership in a message posted Tuesday on his office's official Facebook page.

"Education is key when it comes to gun safety," Myers said in a message commenting under a post detailing the official information released about the shooting that killed Bragg and sent Kidwell to jail.

"Most of all when these reckless incidents occur we will investigate and seek justice for families involved and the community," Myers said. "Guns and drugs with alcohol don’t mix, period."

Bartholomew County prosecutors on Thursday charged Kidwell with reckless homicide, a level 5 felony that carries a sentence of one to six years in prison if convicted.

RELATED: 18-year-old shot, killed in Bartholomew County | Columbus police seek suspect in Thanksgiving Day road rage shooting | Man arrested in fatal Thanksgiving Day shooting in Bartholomew County

Contact WRTV reporter Vic Ryckaert at or on Twitter: @vicryc.