A loaded handgun that a kindergartner earlier this week took to his elementary school and accidentally fired, injuring himself and two other students, belonged to a friend of the boy's family, police said Thursday.
Houston police said the unidentified 6-year-old boy was showing the gun off to friends in the cafeteria at Ross Elementary Tuesday morning.
"He was working on sliding the slide back and ... in trying to grip the gun, he managed to have his finger in (the trigger). As soon as the gun went off, it surprised him. He dropped it," said Houston police Capt. Lori Bender, with the department's juvenile division.
The gun was identified as a semiautomatic 9 mm Kel-Tec. Bender said moving the slide back on the weapon, which is small and lightweight, can be difficult to do and that the boy, in trying to get a good grip on the weapon while pulling back the slide, had apparently put his finger on the trigger.
"Children see things on TV and try to emulate. We were not able to ascertain he knew exactly what he was doing or if this is something he had observed on TV or otherwise, that this is what you do," Bender said, referring to the boy's attempt to move the gun's slide, an action which puts a new bullet into the weapon's chamber.
Houston police investigators declined to name the family friend the gun belonged to or say when or how the boy got the gun, citing their ongoing investigation.
"He managed to obtain the gun, put it in his backpack, go to school, talk to other children about it, get it out of his backpack right before going to lunch with the intention of showing it off at lunchtime," Bender said.
The family friend and the boy's parents could face possible charges, Bender said.
"While we believe no adult knew he had the gun, there is still some culpability as to the access to the gun," she said.
Potential charges in the case could include making a handgun accessible to a child, a misdemeanor, and endangering a child, which is a state jail felony, Bender said.
In addition to the boy who brought the gun to school, another 6-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl were injured.
The boy who brought the gun was shot in his foot and the other boy was grazed in his leg, while the 5-year-old girl was injured in her knee, officials said.
All three were treated at Texas Children's Hospital and have since been released, said hospital spokeswoman Christy Brunton
Some parents said the incident has made them think twice about safety at the school and they wondered if additional security measures, including extra officers and even metal detectors, are needed.
Norm Uhl, a spokesman for the Houston school district, said it would not be economically feasible for the district to provide extra officers or metal detectors at all of its elementary schools.
He said no school in the district has metal detectors and officers at middle and high schools use hand held wands to check students, but only if they have probable cause to do so because students can't be randomly searched.
The district would not be able to station officers at its elementary schools because most of the district's 200 police officers already are deployed to middle and high school campuses.
"That's where we have the most issues, (at middle and high school) where you would expect. We don't have many issues at the elementary level," Uhl said
The school district will instead focus on educating elementary school kids and their parents on the potential dangers of guns, Uhl said.
"The only sure-fire way to prevent something like this from happening again is that adults put guns where kids don't get to them. We think most parents are doing that, that parents are being responsible," he said.
Uhl said school district officials are waiting for Houston police to finish its investigation.
"Once we know the facts of the case, we can see if we could have done (anything) to increase the chances of finding (the gun) before the fact," he said.
The district's police chief is also looking to centralize security procedures, which are sometimes decided upon by individual schools.
The kindergartner who brought the gun faces an automatic one year expulsion. If the child were expelled, he would go to an alternative elementary school, Uhl said.