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MERCER, Pa. — A 7-year-old boy had been buckling himself into his safety seat in the back of his father's truck when he was shot to death after a handgun accidentally went off as his father got in the front seat, police said Sunday.
Joseph V. Loughrey, 44, told police he had been trying to sell a scope rifle and a handgun Saturday at Twigs Reloading Den in East Lackawannock Township, 60 miles north of Pittsburgh. He unloaded the magazine at home, but didn't realize a bullet was still in the chamber, Lt. Eric Hermick said. His son, Craig Allen Loughrey, was shot in the chest and died at the scene.
The shop's owner, Gladys "Twig" Mohney, said Loughrey had exited the shop after she told him she does not buy guns, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. She told the paper she heard a pop but thought it was a nearby hunter, not realizing what had happened until she saw police and fire trucks outside, with paramedics trying to revive the boy.
He was a wonderful little kid. He was special. He was full of life, a lot of fun.
Hermick said Sunday the father had secured the rifle in the back of the truck and placed his pistol on the console when the handgun went off. He said police are reviewing surveillance video from the store, which helped lay out the chain of events; the video is not being released.
"It is very clear-cut exactly what transpired here," Hermick said of what he called clearly an accident. "As he's laying it down, it discharges."
"This happens all too often where people think the gun was empty," he added to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
A friend of Loughrey's said the incident was a tragic accident.
"I know that little kid was everything to him," Mark McLaughlin said. "He was a wonderful little kid. He was special. He was full of life, a lot of fun."
The Mercer County coroner ruled the boy's death an accident on Sunday, the Post-Gazette reported. The results of the investigation will be given to Mercer County District Attorney Robert G. Kochems, Hermick said. A message left with Kochems was not immediately returned Sunday.
Hermick said the father was very distraught and cooperative; he said he doubts there will be charges, but that it's up to the district attorney. The father could face charges, including involuntary manslaughter, Hermick said.
"It's obviously negligent and reckless to some degree," he said. "It's obviously in that gray area, where it's a true accident. But is there negligence or recklessness with him not clearing the chamber?"
A message left at a telephone listing in the father's name was not returned. Hermick told the Tribune-Review Loughrey and the child's mother were divorced, and Laughrey had custody for the weekend.
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