RICHMOND, Va. — Four children under the age of 12 died in Virginia between 2014 and 2016 after accidentally shooting themselves or were mistakenly shot and killed by another child. Two of those cases led to a criminal charge against adults who were watching the children, according to an investigation by USA TODAY Network and The Associated Press.
Journalists from the USA TODAY Network and the AP examined all of the 152 accidents from 2014 to 2016 in which children under age 12 either killed themselves or were mistakenly shot and killed by another child. The review found that about half of those deaths led to a criminal charge, usually against adults who police and prosecutors say should have watched the children more closely or secured their guns more carefully.
Virginia is one of 21 states and the District of Columbia with child-access laws that deal with negligent storage of firearms. Virginia law prohibits anyone from recklessly leaving a loaded, unsecured firearm in a manner that endangers the safety of any child under the age of 14.
Here’s a look at the Virginia cases:
— April 21, 2014: Shane Nichols, 7, was accidently shot by his 12-year-old brother while they played with guns at the Wirtz home of a neighbor who was been watching them, according to local media outlets. Jeffrey Carl Ireson was found not guilty in February 2015 of child abuse and child cruelty.
— July 2, 2015: Chris Palmer, 4, accidentally shot himself after getting a loaded handgun in his parents’ bedroom in Hampton, media outlets reported. Lashawn Stephenson, his stepfather, was charged with child neglect and sentenced to 120 months of probation.
— May 26, 2016: Khalil Abdullah Lavon Burt, 11, was accidentally shot by a 10-year-old while they played with a gun in a Roanoke home, media outlets reported.
— August 13, 2016: A 3-year-old was shot at a home in Danville. Police told media outlets the child died from “accidental discharge of a firearm.”