Hunting Accident File > Safe Hunting > 2008

TN: Man critical, shot in Reelfoot hunting area

Local man critical, shot in Reelfoot hunting area

Published: Monday, November 17, 2008 1:41 PM CST

A Paris man was in critical condition this morning at a Memphis hospital after a suspected hunting accident Saturday.

Insurance agent John Burnett was in critical condition this morning at the Regional Medical Center in Memphis, according to hospital spokesman Kathy Stringer.

According to Galia Greer of the Paris-Henry County Chamber of Commerce, where Burnett is a past president, Burnett was shot with a high-powered rifle while at his duck blind in the Reelfoot Lake area at the edge of the Tennessee Wildlife Refuge in Obion County.

Greer, who has been in contact with Burnett's family since the accident, said the bullet hit Burnett in the elbow and abdomen.

"They took a vein out of his leg to put in his arm to regain circulation in the arm," she said.

Another surgery was scheduled for today, she said.

Burnett is an Obion County native who works at Consolidated Insurance in Paris. He is a former Paris Special School District board member.

Calls to the TWRA office, the Obion County Sheriff's Department and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation were not returned by press time today.

P-I Staff Writer

Authorities are asking for help from the public as they investigate the Saturday shooting of a former Paris-Henry County Chamber of Commerce president at Reelfoot Lake.

John Burnett, 45, of Paris was in critical condition this morning at the Regional Medical Center in Memphis.

He had been airlifted to the hospital Saturday, after initially being treated at Baptist Hospital at Union City.

Chief Deputy Kent Treece of the Obion County Sheriff's Office said Burnett was shot in the Walnut Log area of Reelfoot Lake as he attempted to inspect his duck blind.

At the time of the shooting, Burnett was with his nephew, Luke Burnett, and his nephew's friends Chris Sisk and Blake Turner.

"They were unarmed," Treece said. "They were walking through an area of Reelfoot Lake in an attempt to get to their duck blind."

The four were on foot because drought conditions had lowered the lake level in that area, making the blind unreachable by boat.

"They were walking in to see if there was a possibility they could hunt, and they actually never made it to the blind when the incident happened," Treece said.

Treece said Burnett was hit in the left arm by a rifle-caliber weapon, Treece said. According to information provided to the Paris-Henry County Chamber of Commerce, he was also wounded in the abdomen.

"We received a phone call through 911 at about 2:47 p.m. Saturday afternoon," Treece said. "We had a deputy respond to the scene. He spoke to the individual that actually called 911, who said the individual had been taken by private vehicle to the hospital in Union City."

After driving his uncle to the hospital, Luke Burnett returned to Reelfoot Lake with Obion County Sheriff's deputies.

"Once they got back to the scene, he described specifically the area they were in where Mr. Burnett was shot," Treece said.

According to Treece, land at Reelfoot Lake falls into three categories: Federal wildlife refuge land, managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service; state land, managed by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency; and private property.

"The area that he was in was in one of those areas where national Fish and Wildlife property abuts state Wildlife Resources Agency property," Treece said.

After both game agencies were notified, they each brought in their own investigators. USFWS brought in the Federal Bureau of Investigation, while TWRA brought in the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

Representatives from the five organizations involved met at the Obion County Sheriff's Office, and started a joint investigation.

Treece said the investigation hasn't turned up anything yet, but is still ongoing.

"We're still following up on any information that we are receiving from several individuals," he said. "We're following up on any tidbit of information that we can get right now."

Treece encouraged anyone with information about the shooting to contact authorities.

"If anyone that happened to be in that area that has seen or heard anything at all, no matter how insignificant they may think it is, either contact the Sheriff's office here (at 731-885-5832), or the TWRA office (at 800-372-3928)," he said.  

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