A 6-year-old boy accidentally shot and killed his father Sunday night when he picked up a gun and fired it — not knowing it was loaded.
James Lonaker, 62, was home with his wife and two children in Hartsville, Indiana, when the incident took place. Family members told local newspaper the Daily Journal that Lonaker had removed his gun when he was changing clothes, and placed it on a mini-fridge before turning to his computer to finish some work.
Lonaker's wife, Jenny Rose, was also in the house with the couple's 1-year-old child. Neither of them noticed their 6-year-old son pick up the gun, for which the boy's father had a carry permit.
Bartholomew County Sheriff Matt Myers said in a statement that the young boy "fired a shot and accidentally hit his father. The handgun belonged to the man who was shot."
Police received a call at 9:17 p.m., and arrived at the Lonaker residence to find James suffering from a gunshot wound to his upper body, Myers said.
He died on the way to the hospital.
Juli Lonaker, one of James' daughters from a previous marriage, called the incident a "tragic, tragic accident."
She also emphasized that the family did not want to punish the child for the accidental shooting.
"We want to make sure he has the healthiest future possible," she told the Daily Journal. "We can tell his heart is broken. He has told us his daddy is in heaven."
Myers told the paper that when he was interviewed by investigators, the 6-year-old said he did not think the gun was loaded.
Child Protective Services was notified of the incident.
"Some of the headlines used the word killed," Juli Lonaker said. "My little brother is not a killer. My little brother is a little boy who likes to play and have fun and he is a good, good little boy."
BuzzFeed News has reached out to the Bartholomew County Sheriff's office and the Lonaker family for more information.
Tamerra Griffin is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based Nairobi, Kenya.
Contact Tamerra Griffin at email@example.com.
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