Family, community respond to accidental shooting of Irwin Co. football player

Family, community respond to accidental shooting of Irwin Co. football player

OCILLA, Ga. (WALB) - The likelihood of Garland Benyard getting back on the gridiron this season is slim.

Family members said they’re thankful Garland didn’t lose his life after he was accidentally shot Monday night. They also said they believe the teen suspected of shooting him did not tell the whole truth about what happened.

People in Ocilla said they’re thrilled for Garland’s recovery but hate that he won’t be on the football field this Friday night.

Antonio Bivenes is Garland’s cousin and said that he and his family aren’t too happy about the shooting and what stories were told about what happened.

Antonio Bivenes is the cousin of Garland Benyard
Antonio Bivenes is the cousin of Garland Benyard (Source: WALB)

“Right now our family is devastated about what happened,” Bivenes said. “Right is right and wrong is wrong no matter who do it, you know what I mean? Be straight up with us, keep it real with us, we know kids are going to be kids and people are going to make mistakes, but don’t lie to us.”

Shaneka Paschal, is Benyard’s mom and told us about the frightening moment when she received the phone call about her son being shot.

“I was at home cooking, I called his phone, I texted his phone and he didn’t answer. I was happy he was calling me back and then it was the kid telling me he accidentally got shot in his living room,” Paschal said.

Paschal said at that moment, she couldn’t process if it was true or not.

"I was like, ‘Are you serious?’ He said, ‘Yes ma’am.’ I said, ‘Where are you?’ He said, 'I’m on my way to the hospital.’ So, I hung up the phone and called his mom and I told her and I hung up the phone and went up to the hospital,” Paschal said.

Garland is currently at a Macon hospital where his mother said he is making a quick recovery.

Fans rooting for Garland’s recovery

Irwin County Indians fans rooting for Garland’s recovery

Arlenda Roberts said that she is a die-hard Irwin County football fan and that the accident has touched everyone in the Ocilla community.

Die Hard Irwin County fan Arlenda Roberts
Die Hard Irwin County fan Arlenda Roberts (Source: WALB)

“He comes from a good family, he is an excellent football player, he carries the Irwin County Indians,” Roberts said. “My heart is hurt, and it is just a hurt to the community and we hope that he will be able to go back to the football game.”

WALB was told by a school official that the shooting was a hunting accident. However, Berrien County Sheriff Ray Paulk said the shooting was no hunting accident based on preliminary evidence.

People in the community said Garland is a leader for the Irwin County Indians they’re hurt knowing he won’t be able to join his team on the field for the rest of the season.

“It will be bad not seeing him on the field because he carried the football team together,” said Ocilla resident Marshall Merritt.

Marshall Merritt
Marshall Merritt (Source: WALB)

Roberts said that she will continue to keep Garland’s recovery in her prayers and she hopes to see him on the football field next season.

“My heart just goes out to his parents and him and his twin brother about what happened to him. And we are lifting him in prayer,” Roberts said.

Bivenes said that Garland and his twin brother are special in every athletic way.

“At three years old these kids would keep their eye on the ball and actually catch and then throw a spiral right back at you. So, we knew they were special. Everybody around here knew they were special,” said Bivenes.

Paschal said that Garland is healing well but this is the end of the football season as his team heads to the quarter-finals Friday night.

“He is doing good, I think he is done for the season. He won’t be back to football and he is devastated. He was ready to play Friday night. He knows he can’t play because he is down,” Paschal told WALB News 10.

Bivenes said that this is a wake-up call for anyone who will be with their family this holiday season.

“Every family man, just cherish the moment you have around people because it could have went the other way. It could have been devastating and we could have actually been — you know,” Bivenes said.

Paschal told us that Garland is healing quickly and should be done with physical therapy in February.

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