Monday, May 21, 2018
Public safety

Largo teen shot during game of Russian roulette dies

LARGO — Surrounded by teenage friends on the back porch of his house, Thorin Montgomery was first up in a contest of Russian roulette.

Right away, the .38-caliber revolver fired its round. Badly wounded, the 17-year old was rushed to the hospital Friday night. Keeping vigil, friends wrote wishes online that he might summon some sort of inner strength and pull through.

But he died around 3 a.m. Sunday at Bayfront Medical Center. And friends who now dedicated Web posts to his memory struggled to reconcile how the teen with a bright smile and happy demeanor could be dead.

"Truly blessed to have been such amazing friends with you Thorin … rest your soul in paradise," wrote one.

Deaths and injuries from the act of bravado — putting a bullet in the chamber, spinning it, pointing it at your head and pulling the trigger to see if it goes off — are uncommon in Florida, but not unheard of. An expert who has studied the phenomenon suggests it is one of the ways that young men — and the victims are almost always young men — seek the rush of a thrill.

This incident began about 7:45 p.m. Friday. Pinellas County Sheriff's Office deputies had been called to the home at 11133 111th Way for a reported shooting.

Deputies found that Montgomery was playing Russian roulette with three of his friends — ages 16, 18 and 19. Montgomery was the first to have a turn.

He pointed the revolver at his head and fired, authorities said.

The Sheriff's Office declined Sunday to release further details of the episode, including who owns the gun or the names of the teenage witnesses.

The medical examiner will conduct an autopsy as the investigation continues, the Sheriff's Office said.

Attempts to reach Montgomery's friends and family Sunday for comment were unsuccessful.

Montgomery had attended Seminole High School, according to his Facebook page. He also wrote that he had worked at Atomic Tattoos.

The Tampa Bay Times previously has reported that his father, Clay Montgomery, co-owned the Atomic Tattoos chain and that his mother, Laurie Montgomery, helped manage a store.

In the past two decades in Florida, other fatal cases of Russian roulette include:

• A 16-year-old Jacksonville boy who shot himself in the mouth in 2006 in front of a 12-year-old.

• A 29-year-old Plant City man who died in 1999 while attempting to impress teenage friends.

• A 17-year-old Tampa teen who died in 1993, and whose donated organs went to nearly 60 recipients.

According to a 2008 study co-authored by John Hunsaker, an associate chief medical examiner in Kentucky, the majority of Russian roulette victims are men under age 30.

"A lot of activity by people in this age range is considered to be part of a thrill-seeking activity," he said Sunday. "The high derived from whatever it is — whether they're riding on top of subway trains, or putting a noose around their neck, or playing Russian roulette, the list goes on and on — is the reason behind it; not to kill themselves."

Hunsaker and his colleagues studied the issue in hopes of "making sense of" and preventing a number of Russian roulette-related deaths coming through Kentucky's medical examiner's office at the time.

"The notion typically is not to die. The purpose is to survive. But obviously, they're reducing their chances of survivability considerably when they engage in such high-risk activity," he said. "It's been played for centuries, that thrill-seeking game, and likely will continue to be," Hunsaker added.

Times researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this report.

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