The victim, Bradley Bassey Eyo, 23, was found fatally shot near Lake Ray Hubbard in Dallas on Dec. 26., authorities said. Authorities said Eyo was shot on George Brown Drive in Garland, Texas, and the body was dumped later.
On Wednesday, 20-year-old Nickey Van Exel, the son of the Hawks' Nick Van Exel, was charged with capital murder in the case. He was jailed on $1 million bond.
Paul Johnson, the younger Van Exel's attorney, said that his client told police he shot Eyo, a longtime friend and neighbor, while the two were engaged in "horseplay" with a shotgun. He said Van Exel didn't know the gun, which belonged to his stepfather, was loaded.
After the shooting, Van Exel "panicked" and moved the body, Johnson said. Van Exel also tossed the gun in a creek, and it has yet to be found, he said.
"It's a real sad situation," Johnson said. "Emotions are running high, and, obviously, we recognize that some very bad decisions were made on how he responded."
Johnson said he was contacted by Van Exel's family on Tuesday and immediately started working with authorities. The younger Van Exel has not yet appeared in court or entered a plea.
The elder Van Exel played for the Dallas Mavericks from 2001 to 2003 as part of an NBA career that spanned 13 seasons and six teams. He is now working as player development instructor for the Atlanta Hawks, a job he began in September.
Johnson said he spoke to the elder Van Exel and that he and others who knew Eyo were deeply saddened.
"Bradley was like part of the family," Johnson said.
Atlanta Hawks officials said their thoughts and prayers were with the Van Exels and other families involved.