Accused shooter claims it was accident

SOUTH HAVEN — A Covert Township man who allegedly shot his former girlfriend last week claims it was an accident. She disagrees.

Jeffrey Howell, 50, was arraigned in Seventh District Court on Monday in connection with the shooting that occurred Friday at South Haven Mobile Home Park in South Haven.

He faces six felony charges, including assault with intent to commit murder, weapons firearm discharged in or at a building causing injury, assault with a dangerous weapon and three counts of possession of felony firearm. His bail was set at $1 million, and he remains in Van Buren County jail. His next court date is Wednesday, Oct. 18.

During his arraignment, Howell told the judge he didn’t mean to shoot his former girlfriend, 49-year-old Guadalupe Hernandez.

“I didn’t do anything to cause harm to Guadalupe. That’s my best friend. She struck herself. I told her not to touch it,” he said at his arraignment, recorded by WWMT-TV.

Recovering at home, Hernandez tells a different story.

“By the way, he had his hand on that gun,” she said in an interview Tuesday when asked if she thought the shooting was accidental.

South Haven Police were called to Hernandez’s home at 4 a.m. Friday, Oct. 5, for a reported shooting that occurred following a domestic dispute.

Hernandez told police she had been shot, and described Howell, who was later arrested at a family member’s home in Covert Township.

Hernandez said Howell had come to her home with the .22-caliber pistol.

“He was telling me I needed to hide it,” she said. “I didn’t want any guns in my home.”

When she tried to grab the gun by the barrel it went off. The bullet struck her left palm first and then went into her abdomen.

The bullet went through four portions of her small intestines and lodged in her back, where it remains while doctors wait to see if it can be surgically removed, Hernandez said.

A full recovery isn’t expected for up to a year, she said.

“I just hope no one else has to go through this,” she said. “I wouldn’t want it on my worst enemy.”

Hernandez said she has known Howell from the time she was a sixth grader. His family and hers grew up together.

“We had an on-again, off-again relationship,” she said, regarding Howell. “We split up over two months ago. Previous to that night (of the shooting) I told him he needed to move on.”