Zackery Freeman was an avid hunter, but before he ever picked up a gun he took hunter’s safety classes and was educated by his grandfather about firearms safety.
It was something Zackery remembered and put into practice all his life — but one lapse in caution resulted in Freeman, 19, being killed on Aug. 22 as the result of a firearm accident.
Freeman’s sudden passing left his family devastated, both emotionally and financially. In an effort to help ease some of their burden, friends are organzing a benefit, “A Cause for a Rebel.” The event is slated for Oct. 13 at the Big R store in Crawfordsville. It will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will feature a silent auction, music, food and a car, truck and bike show.
Additionally, law enforcement officials will be on hand to provide educational materials about gun safety.
Freeman was killed when he removed a shotgun from the back of his car. He grabbed the gun by the barrel, assuming it was not loaded.
Horrifyingly, it was loaded. One of the gun’s two safeties was off, and the weapon discharged, striking Freeman in the abdomen.
He was rushed to the hospital, where he died a short time later.
“It was a terrible accident, and Zack knew better,” said his mother, Robin Carpenter. “But he had to go to work and he was in a hurry.”
Freeman’s grandmother, Kathy Carpenter, described her grandson as “a funny kid.”
“He was always laughing and saying funny things,” she said.
Freeman took care of his family, particularly his mother and his sister Hannah Threlkeld, 13.
“Sometimes when money was tight for us and he knew I was scraping by just to keep the power and heat on, instead of buying gas for himself he would just pop into the house with groceries for us and then he would spend the rest of the week riding his bike or walking to work,” Robin said.
Freeman often told his mother to not buy Christmas presents for him, but to spend whatever money she had on Hannah.
One of Freeman’s signatures was a Confederate flag. He often wore shirts and hats bearing the symbol, and his prized red pick-up truck had stickers bearing the flag on it.
While many associate the Confederate flag with racism, Freeman saw it as a symbol of his “rebellion against the ignorance of those who refused to accept him or understand his affliction.”
That “affliction” was Tourette syndrome — an inherited neuropsychiatric disorder with onset in childhood that is characterized by multiple physical tics and at least one phonic tic.
“As a child he was rejected,” Robin said. “He was very strong in his convictions.”
Eventually, Freeman decided to go off his medications and learned to control his condition on his own.
Still, he remembered being made fun of for being different, and he was quick to defend those who were being bullied.
“He was big on people not picking on people who were different,” Kathy said. “If someone was being bullied, he would step in. He had a big heart ... he was just a kind soul. “
Kathy was exceedingly close to her grandson, and although his life was cut short by tragedy she feels blessed to have had him in her life for 19 years.
“I was there the day he was born and I was there the day he died,” she said, choking back tears.
Kathy said the benefit would make her grandson “embarrassed, but proud.”
“He did things for people and they never knew it,” she said. “His Grandpa Rick and I brought up our girls that way and they brought up their kids that way. They were taught to pay it forward.”
Freeman loved meeting new people and had many friends.
“Rick always taught Zack to shake people’s hands and look them in the eye,” Kathy said.
For more information about A Cause for a Rebel, call Todd Neal at 376-9577.