INDIANAPOLIS –Two years after Aubrey Peters was hailed as a hero for helping save two children who fell through ice on Morse Reservoir in Indiana, grieving teens gathered near that scene Monday night to remember the teenage girl who died over the weekend in what is believed to be an accidental shooting.
Hundreds gathered on the shoreline of Morse Beach Park in Noblesville, Ind., at a candlelight vigil to remember Peters, 16, who died Sunday after a man shot her with a handgun he thought would be empty, court documents say.
Jacob Travis McDaniel, 20, Noblesville, was charged Monday afternoon with reckless homicide in the death of Peters.
Students from Noblesville and nearby high schools paid tribute to Peters, who was a junior at Noblesville High School, by releasing balloons beneath a tree so their tethers would tangle in branches and become suspended in the freezing air.
Joe Hodson, Peters' boyfriend, was surrounded by friends as he walked away from a row of candles along the water. He used his finger to write a message in the snow: "JH + AP forever."
Peters' tragic death shook many of the students who braved 20-degree temperatures for the impromptu vigil. Those who knew Peters spoke of her positive energy, her nonjudgmental personality and her willingness to help those she didn't know.
In 2010, that giving nature was on display when Peters helped save two girls who fell into ice-covered Morse Reservoir in Hamilton County, Ind. Others at the vigil described her talent for art, particularly portrait drawings.
Hodson, an Indiana University freshman, said the world was cheated by Peters' death.
"Aubrey gave her all into everything. As her boyfriend, I know that.
"This should not have happened to her. She did not deserve to die. … She is the kind of person meant to change the world, not die at the age of 16 due to some negligence with a handgun."
McDaniel appeared Monday in Hamilton Superior Court, where he also was charged with pointing a firearm. According to a probable cause affidavit, McDaniel, Peters and two other men were in McDaniel's house about 11:20 p.m. Sunday when the shooting occurred.
According to the affidavit, McDaniel was showing Peters and the two other men a shotgun and a handgun. Dajuan Williams, one of the men, told police that "McDaniel tried to get Aubrey to hold the gun, but she didn't want to."
At that point, Williams told police, McDaniel ejected the magazine from the gun, pointed the weapon at Peters, took the safety off and pulled the trigger.
McDaniel apparently thought the gun was empty, the affidavit said, but when he pulled the trigger, a round fired.
"Aubrey clutched her chest and said, 'What just happened?' " the affidavit said. Williams told police that while he attempted to help Peters, McDaniel gave the men a story to tell police.
"McDaniel then stated, 'The story is the gun fell off the table and went off,' " the affidavit said.
A semiautomatic handgun can hold one round in the chamber. The affidavit said McDaniel set the magazine and a loose round on a stairway ledge, but it did not indicate whether he tried to clear the chamber.Police arrived shortly after the shooting, and officers tried unsuccessfully to revive Peters until medics arrived, said Noblesville Police Lt. Bruce Barnes. Peters was pronounced dead at the hospital.
After interviewing witnesses, police arrested McDaniel, Barnes said.
A pretrial hearing for McDaniel is set for Feb. 21. The reckless homicide charge is a Class C felony punishable by two to eight years in prison. Pointing a firearm is a Class D felony punishable by six months to three years in prison.
In 2011, Peters was one of six people to receive the Red Cross Hall of Fame Award from the American Red Cross of Greater Indianapolis.
In March 2010, Peters heard screams and saw Jessica Moore, then 7, and her sister Sydney, then 4, struggling to stay afloat in the cove behind Peters' grandparents' house.
Then a seventh-grader, Peters ran into the house to wake her napping grandmother, Joyce, 63, before running to the shoreline calling 911 on her cellphone. The rescue by her grandmother and others was featured in a 2012 episode of Panic 9-1-1 on the A&E network.
The apparently accidental fatal shooting was the second in as many days in the Indianapolis area. On Saturday, a 3-year-old boy pulled a loaded gun off a kitchen counter and shot himself in the head, police said.
Marion County prosecutor's officials said Monday that they didn't know whether charges would be filed in that case.