ODANAH, Wis. - Family members of a 14-year-old boy fatally shot by a sheriff's deputy on a northern Wisconsin reservation questioned on Thursday why the teen, who they describe as loving and kind, was gunned down.
Holly Gauthier said authorities have provided few details about the death of her son, 14-year-old Jason Pero, an 8th grader who died on the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa's reservation Wednesday.
Dispatchers received a call about a male subject walking down the street armed with a knife about 11:40 a.m. Wednesday, said the Ashland County Sheriff's Office, which provides law enforcement services on the reservation along with the tribal police department. A responding deputy fired shots, striking Pero. He was treated at the scene but died at a hospital.
Gauthier told a Duluth television station she believes her son was murdered.
"(There is) no reason you can justify shooting a 14-year-old boy," Gauthier said. Her son was home sick from school Wednesday and staying at his grandparents' house, she added. Gauthier said she doesn't know why Jason was outside.
Pero's grandparents, Alan and Cheryl Pero, told The Associated Press Friday that Jason lived with them and that he went home from school with the flu Wednesday morning. Alan Pero says Jason "wouldn't hurt a fly." Gauthier said her son was "a big teddy bear" and "everybody loved him."
They say an uncle was downstairs doing laundry when Jason left the house. They don't know why he left.
Bad River Band Chairman Robert Blanchard said he has not heard directly from sheriff's officials about why Pero was shot and he questioned why the deputy had to take the teen's life.
"This is a tragedy that should not have happened. There's other ways to do things than to pull out a gun and shoot him," Blanchard said.
The Ashland Superintendent, Keith Hilts, says Pero left school early Wednesday morning because he said he was sick.
Within hours, Hilts says he learned the teenager was dead.
He says this is a first for the district, but they worked quickly to provide any services the students may need.
"Whether you're sad, you're angry. Whether you're numb and don't feel anything, that's okay. They spoke with the students about what they needed today and so some students are doing academic work, and some students are learning a lot of other important lessons today," said Hilts.
Hilts says both the high school and the middle school had fairly low attendance on Thursday, so the district is offering these services for the next several days.