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Sweetwater teen remembered after accidental shooting

12:35 AM, Jan 28, 2013   |    comments
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Family and friends gathered at Sweetwater High School Sunday afternoon to remember Matthew Daniels, 15. Daniels died after investigators said he accidentally shot and killed himself Thursday.   

Lanier Moser lives near Daniels' home and said he and Daniels were very close friends.

"It's really hard because I grew up with him and his family," Moser said.

Hundreds of people filled Sweetwater High's gym. In the middle of the basketball floor was an empty desk topped with a purple bow made of ribbon. It represented the loss of Daniels, who was a freshman at the high school.

Purple was Daniels' favorite color and was a color worn by the students, faculty, and parents who gathered for the first time since the 15 year old's accidental shooting. Many of them shared their fondest memories of Daniels with one another.

Moser said, "Me and my brother spent the night (at Matthew's home) a lot and there was this one time after supper I don't know what I said, but I said something to him and we were eating Jell-O and he laughed and it came out of his nose went into my bowl and it was pretty funny."

Daniels was known as the comedian around school.

Principal David Watts said, "Matthew was a great kid! Matthew was a dry humorist."

Matt Baldwin, Daniels' geography teacher, got a taste of his newest student's humor at the beginning of the school year.

Baldwin said, "So the junior high mascot's the cubs. On the first day of school, the principal is giving an assembly and having a talk with the freshmen." Principal Watts said, "I made the point with the kids that cubs play and cats work and you're a cat now. And Matthew had gone to class and the teacher said, 'Matthew, what are you doing?' He said, 'I'm working. I'm a cat now. Remember?'." Baldwin added, "He had this real mischievous twinkle in his eye and I called him Heathcliff like the cartoon cat."

Baldwin said the next day Daniels went to class singing the theme song from the popular 1980s show and the nickname 'Heathcliff' stuck.

Memories like those were written on a purple banner as a way to say goodbye to someone who meant so much to so many.

Principal Watts said grief counselors will be at the high school all week to help students deal with Daniels' death.

Visitation for Daniels will be held Monday, January 28, 2013 from 4:00 PM - 7:00 PM at First Baptist Church in Sweetwater.

Funeral service will be held Tuesday, January 29, 2013 at 6:00 PM at First Baptist Church in Sweetwater.

A 'Matt Daniels Memorial Fund' has been set up. Anyone wishing to contribute may send cash or check to: Matt Daniels Memorial Fund, c/o Sweetwater High School, Sweetwater, TN 37874.

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