A 31-year-old Evanston man is dead after shooting himself in the head with what he thought was an unloaded shotgun in front of a group of friends Sunday night.
Evanston police were called to an apartment in the 800 block of Howard Street about 9:45 p.m. for a caller who said a man had accidentally shot himself in the head, a statement from police said.
The victim, identified by the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office as Eric Zyzanski, 31, was found “on the floor with a shotgun wound to his head. The shotgun was lying beside him,” police said.
He was pronounced dead at a hospital about two hours later, according to police and medical examiner’s office.
Zyzanski had just returned inside Sunday night after doing some grilling on the second floor deck of his apartment.
He had some friends over, including his girlfriend, and he was showing off a small shotgun, said Christine Edwards, the building manager. Several witnesses told police they “became alarmed and told him to put it away,” the police statement said.
“He thought it was unloaded,” said Edwards, who said she was given the same explanation by a detective.
Edwards said Zyzanski’s girlfriend called her to the apartment after the gun fired, sometime around 9:30 p.m.
“The victim ejected 2-3 rounds” from the gun, then “held the shotgun to his cheek, told his friends it was empty and pulled the trigger,” police said.
Police said everyone they interviewed “gave consistent accounts of what had happened” and the “body and the evidence corroborated the witnesses’ accounts.”
The Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office said Monday that Zyzanski, died from a shotgun wound to the head.
The office called Zyzanski’s death a suicide – a ruling that Edwards challenged.
“It was a tragic accident,” she said.
Edwards, who regarded Zyzanski as a friend, as well as a tenant, indicated she hadn’t seen any signs of despondency that would indicate he took his life willingly.
There had been some drinking while grilling but nothing unusual for people Zyzanski’s age group, in their 30s, she said.
She said Zyzanski, who had been the building manager before her, had a good job, as a supervisor at a factory near Cicero.
His 13-year-old son, who lives in Indiana, came to stay with Zyzanski the week before.
The two took runs by the lake and lifted weights as Zyzanski helped his son prepare for the upcoming football season, Edwards said.
Earlier in the day of the shooting, he had done his laundry, she said. He also drove Edwards and her husband to pick up their stereo and then, back at the apartment, had helped them set it up, she said.
He’d visit his disabled mother almost every weekend, she said.
“He was a good kid,” she said about Zyzanski. “He was not a depressed individual.”
Regarding the gun, “no one knew he had one,” Edwards said, her eyes showing signs of crying as she stood outside the building Monday.
The building doesn’t allow guns, she said.
Pioneer Press Staff Writer Bob Seidenberg contributed to this report.