Couple charged with endangerment after boy shoots brother

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PITTSBURGH (AP) — A 9-year-old boy was teasing his dog with the laser sight on his sleeping father's pistol before he accidentally shot his 6-year-old half brother in the neck, police said Thursday in announcing charges against the victim's father and stepmother.

Christopher and Crista McNeely were charged with child endangerment because state police said both knew the father's loaded pistol had been left on a kitchen counter along with another gun. The charges were first reported by the (Kittanning) Leader-Times.

Christopher McNeely was upstairs sleeping and Crista McNeely was at work when the boy was wounded on the morning of Aug. 5 at the McNeely home in Ford City, which is about 40 miles northeast of Pittsburgh. The wounded boy lives with his mother but often spends the night at the McNeely home.

State police also charged Christopher McNeely with allowing minors to possess firearms and reckless endangerment. Police said the boys' 29-year-old father stored five long guns in the 9-year-old's bedroom, along with 8,600 rounds.

Christopher McNeely's defense attorney, Samir Sarna, told The Associated Press that the 6-year-old is recovering and in outpatient physical therapy. But he declined to comment on the charges, as did Crista McNeely's attorney, Randall McKinney, though he said he may speak when the couple has a preliminary hearing on Sept. 22.

According to the criminal complaints, Christopher McNeely told police he had "cleared" the weapons, a .380-caliber Ruger pistol and a 9mm Ruger, before going to bed the night before. Police said that means McNeely made sure the guns didn't have bullets in their firing chambers, though he left the magazines that hold other bullets in both guns.

The 9-year-old boy told police that he removed the .380 Ruger's "ammo pack" — or magazine — before he began playing with the gun's laser sight, the complaint said.

Crista McNeely told police that "the kids are not permitted to play with the guns but in the past they have been allowed to play with the little gun that has the laser on it," the complaint said.

The 9-year-old told police that he and his brother stopped playing with that gun after the dog started barking, put the magazine back in the gun, then put the gun back in its holster on the counter.

The older boy told police he picked up the 9mm, removed its magazine and was aiming the gun at the floor when it fired and wounded his brother. Christopher McNeely and an 11-year-old son, who were both sleeping, were awakened by the commotion and called 911, police said.

The child endangerment charge is the most serious filed. A third-degree felony, it carries up to seven years in prison upon conviction. The allowing-minors-to-possess firearms charge is also a third-degree felony, and reckless endangerment charge is a misdemeanor carrying up to two years in prison.

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