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Florida 3-year-old dies after shooting himself with a handgun, officials say

The child had accessed a gun stored in a nightstand in his parents' bedroom Wednesday evening when they were grocery shopping.
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A 3-year-old boy in Florida died after shooting himself with a handgun stored in his parents' bedroom, officials say. 

The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office said deputies “responded to one of the worst calls imaginable” just before 6:30 p.m. Wednesday on Nectarine Road in Daytona Park Estates in DeLand. 

The first deputy attempted lifesaving measures, but the boy’s injuries were “too severe” and he was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital at 7:03 p.m. 

Sheriff Mike Chitwood said during a news conference Thursday that the parents had gone to a nearby Publix to buy groceries and left their 16-year-old daughter in charge of her younger brothers, ages 7 and 3, Wednesday evening. 

“For some reason, I don’t know that reason and I don’t know if we’ll ever know that reason, the 3-year-old wandered in the bedroom and wandered into the end table, and when he got into the end table, he picked the gun out, turned it toward himself and shot himself point blank range,” he said.

Chitwood noted it only takes 4.6 pounds of pressure to pull the trigger on that gun.

The sheriff said that the weapon the child got a hold of was a Canik 9 mm firearm that was stored in the nightstand next to his parents’ bed. He said a second firearm was in the home, a Glock on top of the refrigerator. 

He noted there was a safe in the bedroom, but it was “inoperable.” Investigators will look into how long that safe was unusable. 

The father, a Florida state corrections officer, told deputies that his firearms were normally kept in a safe in the bedroom, but the safe's electronic lock function had stopped working and he instead placed one on top of the fridge and the other in his nightstand.

The case will be fully investigated and submitted to the State Attorney’s Office for review, officials said.

Chitwood said violations of safe storage of firearms is a second-degree misdemeanor.

Sheriff Mike Chitwood speaks during a press briefing following the accidental death of a child in Volusia County, Fla.
Sheriff Mike Chitwood speaks at a news conference after the accidental death of a child in Volusia County, Fla.Volusia Sheriff's Office

Under Florida law, following the accidental shooting of a child, “no arrest shall be made prior to seven days after the date of the shooting.”

With respect to any parent or guardian of a deceased minor, the investigating officers are under the law supposed to file their findings and evidence with the State Attorney’s Office with regard to violations and the state attorney will evaluate it and “take such action as he or she deems appropriate under the circumstances,” the law states.

“I cannot imagine there’s anything in the law books that can punish that family more than what happened last night,” Chitwood said.

The state Department of Children and Families responded to the scene and is aiding and supervising the family. He said first responders will also receive counseling services “in light of the trauma of the incident.” 

“There’s a message here to all parents that own guns and that message is, if you have little ones, even if you have teenagers, you’ve got to lock them up man, because you just don’t know,” Chitwood said.