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Oregon City girl dies in accidental shooting

UPDATES: Funeral scheduled, fund set up to benefit family


by: SUBMITTED - Shayla May ShonnekerAn accidental shooting took the life of a 9-year-old Oregon City girl on Sunday afternoon.

Oregon City police said Shayla May Shonneker was in the backyard of her house at 2012 12th St. at about 5 p.m. on April 14 when a handgun her mother’s boyfriend, 32-year-old Joseph Wolters, was handling inside the house accidentally fired through the wall, striking Shayla in the head.

Shayla was taken by Life Flight to Oregon Health and Science University Hospital, where she died.

A funeral has been scheduled for Wednesday, April 24, at 3:30 p.m. at SouthLake Church, 1555 S.W. Borland Road, West Linn.

Shayla was a transfer student at John Wetten Elementary School in Gladstone since kindergarten. She was survived by her father and mother, a 12-year-old brother and a 4-year-old half-brother.

The family released the following statement to media on Monday:

We are saddened and shocked at the events that unfolded yesterday. Our little Shayla was playing outside when she was struck by a bullet. Trying to understand and comprehend the actions that led to the shooting are more than our family can deal with right now. It is more important that we deal with the very personal loss of Shayla. We know that this was an accident and there was no intent to harm Shayla in any way. Please give our family the respect and privacy we need to both grieve and begin the healing process. We are releasing this letter in an effort to give the media information, hoping that in return they will give us the space we need. We welcome thoughts and prayers on the community Facebook page at In Loving Memory of Shayla.

Gladstone School District Superintendent Bob Stewart noted that additional counselors were already available for grieving students on Monday. The district also established a “safe room” for affected students and staff members at the school.

“There will be an area of the school that will be designated as a tribute area,” Stewart said. “We will provide additional support as long as is necessary, and I expect that will be at least through the end of this school year.”

Stewart expects Principal Wendy Wilson will be sending a letter to John Wetten parents later on Monday to provide advice on talking with children about tragedy. He was aware that everyone grieves differently, so there will be various strategies noted for addressing the community loss.

A fund has been set up to help the family pay for the unexpected expenses of a funeral and the disruption this has caused. Donations can be made at any Bank of America to: Community Fund Shayla Schonneker.

According to police, Wolters had recently been hired as an armed security guard for an armored transport company. The handgun apparently fired as Wolters was practicing holstering and unholstering his gun inside the home, in preparation for qualifying with the handgun for his new job.

Police said Wolters, a member of the military reserve, is a decorated Iraq war veteran.

Editor's Note: An early version of this news story included incorrect information about Wolters' 2007 arrest that was provided by the Oregon City Police Department. The arrest was a mistake by the military.