WEST JORDAN — A 13-year-old boy who died in what police are calling a "tragic incident" between him and a 15-year-old friend in West Jordan early Saturday morning has been identified by family members.
Derek Thatcher, the father of 13-year-old Lance Moorhead, released the following statement to KSL TV on Sunday:
"My son who just turned 13 in March loved to skate, play football, and video games. He had a contagious smile that could warm anyone's heart. You couldn't help but to smile back. He is loved deeply by his parents, many siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles. He will be missed immensely. Gun safety is of the utmost importance to prevent this kind of tragedy and heartache our family has experienced. We can't stress enough how important gun safety is."
The 13-year-old was shot and killed at approximately 1:45 a.m. on Saturday, West Jordan police say.
"What this was early this morning was just a series of, frankly, poor decisions made by some adolescents that two families are going to now have to deal with for the rest of their lives," West Jordan Lt. Richard Bell said at a press conference.
The two boys agreed to sneak out and meet up at a church parking lot at 5208 W. Cyclamen Way. One of the boys brought a firearm with him and, at one point, the 15-year-old accidentally discharged the gun.
"They were manipulating (the gun) and looking at it, obviously not being safe, and the 15-year-old ended up shooting and killing his 13-year-old friend," Bell said. "It is not our belief that he intended to kill his friend."
The 15-year-old called 911 after the incident. "He was distraught. He wanted to help his friend, and he took the steps that he could to best help him after that occurred," Bell said.
Police said the teen was booked into a juvenile detention center on suspicion of manslaughter.
"As we began investigating and digging into the case and determining what had happened, really what we found is it was just a truly unfortunate, tragic accident," Bell said. KSL NewsRadio reported Monday that Bell said while the shooting looked accidental, evidence showed some sort of "criminal culpability."
Bell said an important takeaway for gun owners is to ensure firearms are properly secured.
"If you have weapons in the home make sure they're secured. Make sure they're locked up," Bell said. "It's OK to talk to your kids about guns and teach them gun safety."
Contributing: Katie Workman, KSL.com; Mary Richards, KSL NewsRadio