252nd soldier's death officially ruled as accidental - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

252nd soldier's death officially ruled as accidental

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Story by Megan Boatwright
Eyewitness News Reporter

WHITWELL, TN. (WRCB)-- New details on a tragic story Eyewitness News broke Sunday.

A soldier returned from war unharmed, then died while showing off a gun.

The sheriff's office says Specialist Joshua Meeks' death was an accident.

Josh Meeks was preparing to leave for Afghanistan in January and bought the pistol for training.

The sheriff says they found a cleaning kit on the kitchen table, he believes Meeks simply forgot to check the chamber.

"He thought the gun was empty and, again, it was just a tragic accident," says Sheriff Bo Burnett. 

Marion County Sheriff Bo Burnett was one of the many who responded to Cheri Street Saturday night.

"The medical examiner was called to the scene and she stated it killed him instantly," says Burnett.

Specialist Josh Meeks had just returned from a tour of duty in Iraq in July. He and his wife were spending the evening with friends. Meeks had just bought a new pistol. He was cleaning it when the gun discharged.

"Just a very bad accident for a good man that had you know gone over and fought for his country and it's just a shame that it had to end this way. I'm really sad for the family," says Burnett. 

Staff Sergeant David Dillivan knew Meeks well.

"It's kinda off an unreal feeling cause you expect him to be there and he's not," says Sgt. Dillivan.

Dillivan got the news late Saturday night. He says it was so shocking because Meeks was someone who knew his weapons well.

"He loved his guns, he babied his guns, he named them, he took care of them, cleaned them and that was kinda his heart and soul," says Dillivan.

Meeks had just gotten married in August. He had just started working as a part time deputy, and was thinking about doing another tour in Afghanistan.

"His personality and being a soldier, they go hand-in-hand. When it comes to being a soldier, he is very disciplined," says Dillivan. 

The sergeant says Meeks leaves behind a powerful legacy, as someone who loved life and his job.

"He has enough energy in him that can power our entire company, just when he's around he just lights everybody up," says Dillivan. 

Sheriff Burnett says Meeks was drinking, he's not sure how much.

Toxicology samples are being examined by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

The sheriff says Meeks' friends, who were there that night, didn't appear drunk. Arrangements are being handled by Reed's Funeral Home in Whitwell.

What makes the story even more troubling, is the 252nd didn't suffer a single casualty on the front lines.

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