Prescott Valley, AZ – A 4-year-old boy accidentally shot and killed his father in a friend’s home, according to law enforcement authorities.
The victim is 35-year-old Justin Stanfield Thomas, a military veteran who serves in the Army Special Forces. According to police, Thomas and his son, of Phoenix, were visiting a friend when the boy found a gun in the living room and accidentally fired it at his father.
A neighbor and friend to everyone involved said he didn’t hear the gunshot, but arrived for the aftermath.
“I really can’t believe this happened,” Jeremy Hartt said. “It’s tragic, that poor little boy.”
The man Thomas was visiting is also a military vet, and keeps a loaded gun around for protection, said authorities.
“Apparently when Justin and his little boy showed up, within minutes, the little boy found the gun and said, ‘hey, daddy, what’s this?’ and it went off,” Hartt recalled.
“He didn’t know what was going on; he was just a happy little boy,” he said.
Police believe that Thomas’ visit was spontaneous, which might be why the gun was unsecured and ready to be claimed by the young boy.
“I don’t know that this individual had time to do so, but it certainly needs to be at the forefront of anybody’s mind if they have a firearm and a child comes in,” said Prescott Valley Police Sgt. Brandon Bonney. “It needs to be priority number one to secure those weapons.”
Police are still investigating the scene, but thus far have simply called it a tragic accident. Hartt described Thomas as a great father and person.
“I know that he wouldn’t want us to be sad,” said Hartt. “He would always want us to remember the good times we had.”
You can watch a video report on the 4-year-old’s accidental killing of his own father below:
[Image via: Guy J. Sagi / Shutterstock]