‘Live like Nathan’: ES student dies in accidental shooting

Thursday, September 23, 2021
Nathan Howton

The Eureka Springs School District is mourning after a student died in an accidental shooting over the weekend.

Superintendent Bryan Pruitt confirmed that junior Nathan Howton was killed in the shooting. Pruitt said Howton was part of the Connect 4 program, so he spent half of each school day at Eureka Springs High School and the other half at the Connect 4 building in Berryville. High school principal David Gilmore said Howton was interested in welding and determined to make a name for himself in the field. Howton wasn’t afraid of hard work, Gilmore said.

“He was an extremely hard worker,” Gilmore said. “He and several kids were doing a lot of yard work, clearing lots and that kind of thing. He was ready to work at all times.”

Gilmore knew Howton well, because Howton was friends with Gilmore’s son. Howton was at his house often, Gilmore said.

“He was just one of the family, like all the kids are,” Gilmore said. “He was very respectful, very polite and he never met a stranger.”

Senior Sierra Erickson said that was her experience with Howton. New to the school, Erickson said, she was immediately embraced by Howton.

“Every day, he stopped me to see how I was doing,” Erickson said. “He was so silly and he just lit up the room.”

Junior Kaylie Partee said Howton was always laughing or trying to make someone laugh.

“And there was never a time he couldn’t make you laugh,” Partee said. “Any time you were around him, you would be bursting out laughing in two minutes. He was by far the funniest person I’ve ever known, and any time you had a bad day, you could talk to him and he’d be there for you.”

Just last Friday, Erickson remembered, a few of Howton’s friends blocked his vehicle from leaving the school parking lot. So Howton backed up slowly and cracked the grill of a truck that got too close, Erickson said.

“He helped them replace it later that night,” Erickson said. “He did it on purpose, and he did it to make everybody laugh. It’s little things like that I’ll remember.”

Partee recalled working with Howton on an assignment a few weeks ago, saying Howton couldn’t focus on the work. Instead, Partee said, Howton cracked jokes, one after another, until they were both falling over laughing.

“It’s the best time I’ve had all year with a friend, just that short 30 minutes we had together,” Partee said.

Gilmore said Howton would talk to anyone.

“He was such a lovable kid,” Gilmore said. “Even if you were mad at him, you couldn’t be mad for long. You had to love him. He was one of those kids.”

Grief counselors are available to help students struggling with Howton’s death, Pruitt said. Gilmore said the students met on Monday to talk about Howton and share their memories. The students are treating one another with compassion, Gilmore said, and counselors will continue to be available to help anyone who needs it.

“We’re trying to be as normal as possible, but we’re giving the kids any kind of break they need,” Pruitt said. “If they need to just sit and talk with a group, or even with an individual counselor, we’re arranging that for them.”

Students who choose to stay in the classroom, Pruitt said, are given the same consideration.

“Teachers are not going to make things too hard or difficult,” Pruitt said. “We’re going to try to get back into things as we can while respecting the situation that’s happened.”

Pruitt said Howton’s mother and grandmother worked at the school district, and his sister attends the middle school.

“He was very well-known, very liked and not only did the kids know him, but they knew his family as well,” Pruitt said.

According to a post on the Berryville School District’s Facebook page, the district is sending condolences and prayers for the families and friends hurting in Eureka Springs and other school districts.

“Nathan was a student at our C4 campus,” the post reads. “High School counselors are on hand to visit with students who are affected by this in our district.”

Pruitt said he’s not sure about when services will be held. The district will keep moving forward, Pruitt said, while keeping Howton’s memory in mind.

“We’re doing the best we can,” Pruitt said. “Our prayers and support are out for the family and we want nothing but comfort and understanding for them.”

Gilmore said Howton would want everyone to keep laughing and always remember the good times.

“And there are a lot of good times with him,” Gilmore said. “He loved trucks. He recently rode a horse at the rodeo. He got bucked off. I think he stayed on a little over three seconds, but he was actually the winner that night.”

To honor Howton, the students are hosting a truck show at 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 25, at the Berryville Community Center. All proceeds will go toward funeral expenses. You can also donate to help Howton’s family by making a deposit in his name at Equity Bank.

In the meantime, Howton’s loved ones will honor him by living a life he’d be proud of.

“Just remember to laugh,” Partee said. “That’s all he ever wanted to do was make people laugh.”

“Yeah,” Erickson said. “Just live like Nathan.”

Maj. Jerry Williams, chief deputy for the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office, said an investigation was ongoing Monday but that all signs indicated the shooting was accidental. Williams said the sheriff’s office would release a statement after its investigation is concluded.

Information for this report was contributed by managing editor Scott Loftis.

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