This story was updated at 4:45 p.m. April 10, 2012.
A six-year-old boy died Monday in Clinton after accidentally shooting himself with a handgun he found inside his home, police say, and detectives are now investigating the case to determine whether charges will be filed against the gun owner.
Around 2:40 p.m. in the 6000 block of Arbutus Lane, the boy found a loaded handgun inside a backpack while other occupants of the home — his great-grandmother, his grandmother, two girls and a 22-year-old man — were all home at the time, said Cpl. Clinton Copeland, a county police spokesman.
The boy accidentally shot himself in the chest and was transported to a hospital where he later died, Copeland said.
Police believe the handgun belonged to the unidentified 22-year-old, who was taken into custody for questioning Monday, though no charges have been filed.
“We’re still trying to determine what his relationship was, in terms of his relationship to the victim,” Copeland said. “What’s going to happen is we’ll complete an investigation and then pass it on to the state’s attorney’s office and look and see if the weapon was legally registered and that sort of thing.”
Copeland said he did not know where in the house the boy found the backpack or where the other occupants were at the time of the shooting.
Many residents in the residential northern Clinton neighborhood expressed condolences for the family, who police have not identified.
“The school bus stops right in front of our house. I used to see him every morning. He would come with his grandma and wait for the bus,” said Rosalyn Carter, 76, who lives three houses away from the victim’s home, on the opposite side of the street. “At first I just heard somebody had gotten shot, but later found that it was the 6-year-old boy, so of course I was shocked and just horrified.”
Carter said she hopes the person responsible for the handgun serves time in jail as punishment.
“I think he should serve some time for allowing that gun to be in his book bag. You know kids are going to be curious,” she said.
Copeland said the department is using the incident to remind residents to safely secure any registered weapons.
“We always say if you are a homeowner and own a weapon, make sure it’s in a safe position, somewhere a child cannot get a hold of it,” Copeland said. “In this case, we don’t know all the circumstances behind it, but for those who are gun owners, it’s a wake-up call to make sure you have your weapons secure.”
Prince George’s County Councilman Mel Franklin (D-Dist. 9) shared his thoughts on the incident through a statement Monday night.
“I extend my deepest condolences and prayers to the family of this precious angel that was taken from his family and all of us far too soon,” he said. “There is nothing more tragic than the loss of one’s child. Our hearts and prayers continue to be with the family during this time of great sorrow and sadness.”