A 4-year-old boy who shot and killed his 6-year-old friend was playing a game of “pretend shooting” using a real .22-caliber rifle, New Jersey police said.
The young victim, Brandon Holt, was playing outside with his toddler friend on Monday evening when the 4-year-old went inside his come and retrieved the rifle. Brandon was playing in a go-cart when the 4-year-old shot him from about 15 yards away.
The incident took place in an otherwise quiet neighborhood in Toms River, New Jersey, about 70 miles south of New York City.
“The parents of the 4 year old are the ones who called 911. We’re all just trying to figure out what happened. It’s just a tragic situation,” said Toms River Police Chief, Michael Mastronardy.
The 6-year-old was rushed to Jersey Shore Medical Center and was initially listed in critical but stable condition, but later died of his injuries. The shooting left the quiet suburban neighborhood rattled, with many people pointing fingers at the father who allowed the boy to get the gun.
A neighbor, Debi Coto, said she was shocked that the 4-year-old was even able to shoot his 6-year-old friend. She criticized the boy’s father for keeping a loaded rifle where the toddler could find it.
“It’s really difficult to deal with. This is something that shouldn’t have happened,” said the victim’s uncle, Daniel Watkins.
The 4-year-old shoots the 6-year-old just one day after another tragic shooting. In Tennessee a 4-year-old found a loaded handgun and pulled the trigger, killing the wife of a local sheriff’s deputy.
After the 4-year-old shot the 6-year-old, police said they are looking into how the young boy was able to get the gun and why it was loaded. Charges could be filed against the boy’s father, who owns the gun. New Jersey allows for gun owners to be held criminally liable if a loaded handgun is kept were a minor is able to find and get a hold of it.