North Carolina woman’s death was ‘heart-wrenching’ accident, DA says

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File Graphic (KWTX)(MGN ONLINE)
Published: May. 3, 2022 at 9:42 AM PDT
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HENDERSONVILLE, N.C. (FOX Carolina) - An “ill-fated prank” led to the “tragic and heart-wrenching” North Carolina woman’s accidental death, according to District Attorney Andrew Murray.

Rachel Olivia Buchanan, 19, was shot and killed on Oct. 20, 2021, in a remote area just outside the city limits of Hendersonville by her boyfriend, Chris Shields, Jr., and a friend, according to the district attorney.

Murray said Buchanan and Shields were invited to the house of another couple, James “Jake” Barber and his fiancé Autumn Faith Nichols, to hang out.

While hanging out at the house, the two men left to go back to Buchanan and Shield’s home down the road for a phone charger, Murray said. Due to a legend around the couples’ homes of a black panther on the prowl in the area, the two men carried firearms for their own safety.

Murray said, “There is no doubt that several alleged black panther sightings had the Conservative Lan residents on edge for their safety and wellbeing.”

While the men were gone, Murray said the women, “devised an ill-fated plan to play a prank on their respective boyfriend and fiancée by secreting themselves outside the house armed with a dozen expired eggs to throw at them.”

Murray said he was told by Nichols that when they heard the men returning, she squatted to the ground to hide while Buchanan bent over from the waist to shrink. Nichols reported that she passed gas which caused both of the women to start laughing. The men, who were positioned above the women hiding, heard the laughter but perceived it as growling and sticks breaking down.

“Both [men] also saw a dark figure and perceived the figure to be a threat. Both men proceeded to fire multiple rounds in the direction of the shadowy figure that they believed had growled and was moving,” Murray said.

According to Murray, after multiple rounds were fired, they heard Nichols screaming for help. Both men immediately dropped their guns and ran to help. They found Buchanan laying on the ground and unresponsive with multiple gunshot wounds. They provided first aid until first responders arrived.

The Medical Examiner’s Report of Buchanan on April 22, 2022, revealed that she was hit by three projectiles. One of the projectiles caused a deep vertical grazing wound on her forehead. A second one impacted Buchanan’s forearm. The third entered her scalp at a sharply downward trajectory and exited near her left earlobe. It then re-entered the upper left chest and perforated vital organs including the heart.

“I am convinced that the shooting and killing of Rachel Olivia Buchanan was a tragic and heart-wrenching accident,” Murray said in a statement. “No criminal laws were violated by either participant in this shooting.”

Murray mentioned in the release that everyone involved tested negative for any impairing substances in their bloodstream.

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