HANCOCK COUNTY — The Greenfield man accused of accidentally shooting and killing his friend, Evan Neumeister, 18, New Palestine, had his initial appearance in a Hancock County Court this week.
Erick N. Wilkinson, 20, 800 block of CR East 400S, Greenfield has been in the Hancock County Jail since Nov. 22 when he was arrested under preliminary charges of criminal recklessness and involuntary manslaughter.
Prosecutor Brent Eaton put a 72-hour hold on the case Monday so his office could look further into the incident before filing an official charge, more than a week after Neumeister was accidentally killed.
Eaton officially filed one charge against Wilkinson Thursday morning in Superior Court 1. Wilkinson is now facing a Level 5 felony of reckless-homicide. The charge carries anywhere from one to six years in prison.
Judge D.J. Davis set a $3,000 cash bond after the prosecutor’s office asked for a $5,000 cash bond. Wilkinson, if he is able to post bond, would be monitored via GPS through the county’s community corrections pre-trial program. He must also participate in grief counseling, is prohibited from leaving the state, and wherever he stays must have no firearms in the home. Wilkinson is being represented by the county’s public defender.
“This has been a remarkably difficult case,” Eaton said. “We’ll work with the family and Evan’s parents, who both spoke during the testimony in court today as we move forward. The parents both showed love and compassion for their son and this whole terrible situation.”
Evan, who was a New Palestine High School (NPHS) senior, was shot while with Wilkinson and another teen, a 17-year-old juvenile, at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 22 in the 4200 block of South Eclipse Way, New Palestine.
Officials noted that they were called to the residence with reports of a shooting. Once there, law enforcement found Evan with a gunshot wound to the chest.
Officers rendered first aid until officials from the Sugar Creek Township Fire Department arrived. Evan was transported to I.U. Health Methodist Hospital where he was later pronounced deceased. The 9mm handgun belonged to Wilkinson, officials from the New Palestine Police Department (NPPD) said.
According to a probable cause affidavit, the three friends were hanging out in the 17-year-old’s bedroom. Wilkinson just got the new gun, he told his friends, and had it with him.
The 17-year-old juvenile told officials both Wilkinson and Evan were on his bed, and Evan was looking at his phone. The juvenile said he was getting his laundry picked up in his room when he heard a “big bang” and realized Evan had been shot. He told officials he picked up his phone and called 911. He also told officials Wilkinson took his shirt off and placed it on Evan’s wound.
The affidavit stated that the 17-year-old juvenile and Wilkinson tried to give Evan CPR and that Wilkinson was very upset over what had happened.
During an interview with law enforcement, the affidavit stated Wilkinson admitted he accidentally shot the gun after he had been manipulating the weapon. Wilkinson said he had been removing the magazine and manipulating the slide on the firearm.
According to the affidavit, Wilkinson told officials he put the magazine back into the firearm and then released the slide, which would put a round in the chamber. Wilkinson said his finger must have been on the trigger and the gun accidentally fired.
Evan died the night before Thanksgiving and just one day after he turned 18 years old. The family laid Evan to rest this week in New Palestine Cemetery. He is the son of Andrew Neumeister, a Battalion Chief with the Sugar Creek Township Fire Department, who is also a reserve officer with the NPPD. His mother, Kelly Neumeister, is a New Palestine Elementary School teacher.
While Evan was in his senior year at NPHS, he had already determined what he wanted to do and had already earned his firefighter I and II certifications. He was a member of Hancock County 4-H and enjoyed golfing and weightlifting. Those who knew him says he loved spending time with his friends and family. Family also noted Evan loved life and was fiercely loyal to the people in his life. He will be remembered mostly for his loving, witty, easy-going personality, those who knew him said.
Wilkinson was still listed as an inmate in the county jail as of print deadline. He is due back in court Jan. 17 for a pretrial conference.