Chaska rallies around family of teen killed by arrow

  • Article by: KELLY SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 19, 2012 - 11:46 AM

Coach said he "always had a smile on his face. He was a great kid."

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Spencer Swanson

After a yearlong battle with cancer, Teri Swanson was planning a special trip with her sons to celebrate being cancer-free.

Instead, the single mother of three is planning her 16-year-old son's funeral. He was shot in the head with an arrow by his best friend just a month after his mother received the positive prognosis.

"I was thinking, 'All right, we're home free,'" she said Thursday. "It's sad to know I'm not going to be able to do with Spencer what we had planned."

Spencer died Monday, and now his mother is trying to find comfort in the widespread support of his Chaska classmates, bowling teammates and other community members touched by the creative, outgoing teen with a contagious smile.

"He believed he was intended for something bigger," she said. "I always thought he was, too -- I just didn't think it would be something like this."

His funeral is set for Monday at the Waterbrooke Fellowship Church in Victoria, with a service following visitation from 10 a.m. to noon.

His mother said she wants him to be remembered for far more than just the tragedy that ended his life. Instead, she said, he was a natural athlete, a role model to his 8-year-old brother and an aspiring filmmaker as a junior at Integrated Arts Academy in Eastern Carver County Schools. He was also in community sports and active at his church, especially in the years she homeschooled him.

Bob Topinka coached Spencer on Chaska and Chanhassen high schools' bowling team the past two years.

"It's just sad, more than anything," he said. "He was very respectful and always had a smile on his face. He was a great kid."

Swanson also bowled on youth teams at Louisville Lanes in Shakopee and Country Club Lanes in Tonka Bay, where his mother played on a league.

'A tragic accident'

On Thursday, Chaska police were still investigating the incident, which happened Saturday night as Spencer was biking to his friend's house. The friend shot an arrow that reportedly ricocheted off the ground before striking Spencer.

No charges or citations have been issued. Police said no one else was in the immediate area of the "open green space" where the incident happened, but they didn't say why the arrow was shot in his direction or what type of bow and arrow was used. Discharging weapons, including bows, in Chaska is a misdemeanor.

Attorney Marsh Halberg, who's representing the 16-year-old shooter's family, said the arrow was tipless and ricocheted off the ground in a "tragic accident" that didn't involve "any horseplay."

"They're still very distraught over this," Halberg said Thursday of the family. He added that the teens had been best friends since they were 6 years old. They lived a block apart.

Outpouring of support

Since the shooting, Swanson's family, friends and classmates have turned to Facebook and Twitter to share their grief and memories. A fund was set up on Thursday to help his family.

"The community has totally come front and center to support her," said Molly Dvorak of Mound, a longtime family friend, said of Teri Swanson. "I think it's just because the situation was just so shocking and horrific. Even now, we talk about how it seems so surreal. He will be sorely missed."

It's support that overwhelms his grieving mother -- especially after all the family has endured this year.

"It's so incredible to me," she said. "I'm so proud of Spencer and the things he accomplished. I'm so proud to be his mother."

Kelly Smith • 612-673-4141 Twitter: @kellystrib

  • CONTRIBUTIONS

    People wishing to contribute to the Spencer Swanson Memorial Trust can send checks to BMO Harris Bank, 761 W. 78th St., P.O. Box 494, Chanhassen, MN 55317.

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