Drug Tragedy turned Teaching Tool

McCracken County, KY – What would you do if you woke up to a crash in the middle of the night? What if that crash was a sign an intruder? Last July, Brad McKinney of Kevil fell victim to an unwanted and unruly guest. McKinney, fearing for his family shot and killed 18-year-old Caleb Barnett, who broke into his home high on hallucinogenic mushrooms. Now 6 months later McKinney is working to turn this tragedy into a learning experience for his community. Rebecca Feldhaus has more.

As Caleb Barnett stumbled home, barefoot, from a party he came upon a house he may have thought was his own. His mushroom induced high clouded his view and he broke into the home. That house belonged to Brad McKinney. McKinney awoke to a blaring security alarm and retrieved his 9mm pistol to protect his family and himself from whoever might have been at the door. The events that transpired were not of a usual break in.

" and I showed him my gun, and he didn't really care. He was souped up on drugs, he was out of it. And then he started beating his head against my door and he was definitely coming in. So then I held the door, and he started kicking it and then he busted the door frame down. So then I backed away from the door, because he was coming in. And when he actually entered my house, I shot him. He was so souped up, he didn't even know he'd been shot."

After Barnett was wounded in the chest, he continued running through the house and even laying on McKinney's bed. Then he started for McKinney's car. McKinney knew the keys were in the ignition and raced to stop him. By the time McKinney gained control of Barnett, the police arrived. Barnett died later from that gunshot wound.

McKinney was never arrested or charged in Barnett's death because the commonwealth attorney didn't deem is necessary. As most would be, he was in shock after his experience. He says he never thought he would shoot anyone. Now, he's turning the situation around. McKinney is working with the McCracken county sheriff's office, and establishing support a foundation to curb tragedies like his.

"When I was growing up the DARE program was around, I remember seeing it, but now there's no funding. So I thought that would be one of the best ways for me to involve myself in something positive that helps other people."

Sheriff's Deputy Colleen Pennebaker is the local DARE officer for McCracken County.. She says his contribution to DARE's initiative is unique.

"Well, he can provide first person, and that's unfortunate. And I know the Barnett's and the McKinney's, I know that this is devastating for all that are involved, it's devastating to our community as well, it's devastating to all of us, not just them. But they can at least try to deter this from happening to another family."

McKinney has also spoken to church groups and schools about the incident and he has even worked with Caleb Barnett's father.

David Barnett and McKinney met after the incident and together they spoke to a church group to try and convince teens the dangers of drug abuse. But, Barnett and McKinney don't work together anymore.

" and that's really the last thing we've done together. I think that they're still grieving, and they're some stuff they're not ready to hear about what happened. People go through their own grief process, I understand that. Maybe later on in the future, I hope that maybe we can go together, and maybe do some things together because I think that would have more impact."

Of the venues where McKinney spoke Paducah Faith Center Technical Director Tim Batts says the crowd for McKinney's presentation was large. About a hundred people came to hear him speak.

"Well, I think most kids got a first hand glimpse of the horrors of doing drugs and partying and that whole scene, literally got to hear what happened first hand and I think that most kids went away, hopefully thinking that drugs are a bad thing and they don't need to get mixed up in them."

McCracken County DARE Program recently received a check for eight hundred twenty-five dollars from McKinney. His funds come from accounts he's opened at Paducah area BB&T branches. McKinney called on his community to donate, and they came through.

While nothing McKinney does can bring Caleb Barnett back, he hopes to continue with his plan to educate the area about drug abuse, to prevent tragedies like his from happening again.