In a tragic story out of Volusia County, Sheriff’s officials said deputies responded to a pair of frantic 911 calls around 6:22 p.m. Wednesday reporting the shooting at a home on Nectarine Road in the Daytona Park Estates neighborhood of DeLand.
The first deputy arrived on scene at 6:29 p.m. and attempted life-saving measures. Sadly the boy’s injuries were too severe, and he was pronounced deceased at the hospital at 7:03 p.m.
The initial investigation indicates the 3-year-old was home with his 16-year-old sister and 7-year-old brother while their parents were at Publix. The 3-year-old went into the parents’ bedroom and was able to remove a handgun from his father’s nightstand. He discharged the firearm once resulting in the fatal injury.
The father is a Florida state corrections officer who indicated his firearms were normally kept in a safe in the bedroom. The safe’s electronic lock function had stopped working, and the firearms were instead placed (1) on top of the refrigerator in the kitchen, and (2) in his nightstand.
During the daily briefing, Sheriff Mike Chitwood stated that the case will be fully investigated and submitted to the State Attorney’s Office for review. “I cannot imagine there’s anything in the law books that can punish that family more than what happened last night,” the sheriff said.
Florida law (FSS 784.05) states that following the accidental shooting of a child, “no arrest shall be made prior to 7 days after the date of the shooting. With respect to any parent or guardian of any deceased minor, the investigating officers shall file all findings and evidence with the state attorney’s office with respect to violations of this subsection. The state attorney shall evaluate such evidence and shall take such action as he or she deems appropriate under the circumstances and may file an information against the appropriate parties.”
The state Department of Children and Families responded to the scene and is continuing to dedicate resources and supervision to the family. The first responders involved will also be receiving services in light of the trauma of the incident.
Asked what he would say to other families about storage of firearms at home, Sheriff Chitwood responded: “I would like them to listen to that 911 call. I would like to have them hear the 16-year-old say, ‘My brother shot himself and he’s not breathing.’ I think if you heard that, you would run out right now, and buy a gun safe.”