Authorities have identified 3-year-old Gavin Michael Stiles as the son of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, police officer Michael R. Stiles and his wife, Joni, who apparently shot and killed himself on Thursday, The Denver Channel reports. In a news release, the Sheriff’s Office said dispatchers were alerted about the tragedy in the early morning. The boy was taken to the Yampa Valley Medical Center but was pronounced dead at 11:04 a.m.
“I think it’s really sad,” said Steamboat resident Jodie Clementson. “And it’s scary with all the gun stuff that’s been going on, that a 3-year old was able to get ahold of the gun, and obviously it was loaded, so it’s really tragic.”
“It’s heartbreaking,” said local resident Kate Herzog. “I don’t personally know the family, but Steamboat is small. We’re a close knit community, so any tragedy like that affects the entire community.”
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Some reports say the gun accidentally discharged, while others claim the child shot himself inside the family home, and authorities have yet to reveal whether the gun used was a service weapon or a private gun. Nor are they saying where the gun was, how the child gained access to the gun, or who was home when the shooting occurred. After the shooting, Gavin was driven toward Steamboat by his father and a friend. They were met on the way by paramedics who transported him to the medical center. Many social media users find the self-inflicted gunshot story suspect.
“We are deeply saddened at the loss of one of our officer’s family members,” Steamboat Police Chief Cory Christensen said. “We will continue to support the officer and his family through this difficult time.”
Christensen told the local newspaper Steamboat Today, “It’s a tragedy in our family, and we’re focusing on the welfare of our employee and his family.”
“This is a tragic loss and our thoughts and prayers are with the family and the community,” Undersheriff Ray Birch said in a news release.
“The Routt County Sheriff’s Office and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation are currently conducting a death investigation,” he added.
Check out the video report on the incident below.
The police officer’s son’s shooting is one of over a hundred cases of child shootings across the country this year. TheWashington Post reports how there have been at least 137 other child-related shootings. According to Everytown for Gun Safety, “each case involved minors unintentionally shooting themselves or others.” The advocacy group is funded by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The organization reported that there were nearly 300 such shootings last year, and more than half involved unsafe storage of guns.
At least four other children in Colorado have been involved in accidental shootings this year, including a 9-year-old boy who died after his younger brother shot him in the head. They were reportedly playing inside a parked car when they found the handgun the younger boy used, according to investigators. Ten-year-old Anthony Jaliel Lujan Hemmings also died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound after he found a gun wrapped in cloth on top of a shelf at his family’s home, Denver Post reported. Authorities later arrested the boy’s 17-year-old brother and charged him as a juvenile with felony negligent child abuse resulting in death.
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Recently, an 8-year-old Port Orange, Florida, boy accidentally shot himself while at home with his older brother and bedridden great-grandfather. Police said the unidentified child was in the kitchen, where he was apparently playing with a 9 millimeter handgun and it went off, hitting him in the chest.
“We’re going to investigate this and try to find out exactly what happened. Right now, our thoughts and our prayers go out to the child and his family,” Port Orange Police Chief Thomas Grimaldi told WESH 2.
The older brother did not witness the shooting but heard it and ran to get help from a neighbor who called 911. He did, however, perform CPR in an attempt to save his younger brother’s life. WESH 2 News learned that the bedridden great-grandfather was unable to help, and the boy’s mother wasn’t at home at the time. According to police, she has been cooperating with the investigation into her son’s death.
Police Officer Michael R. Stiles and his wife are also said to be cooperating as investigators reconstruct what happened to baby Gavin inside their home.
[Image via Shutterstock]