A police officer in Virginia is facing firearm charges after his 2-year-old son accidentally shot himself with a gun his father left sitting on a couch.
When Newport News Police Officer Stefhone Christian McCombs Sr., 25, returned from work on October 29, he allegedly took out his fully loaded 9mm semi-automatic Glock from his holster and placed it on a couch in his living room, according to a report from the Daily Press.
His children came home about five hours later at about 9 p.m. But McCombs allegedly forgot that the gun was left unsecured on the couch, according to a criminal complaint.
While in the kitchen, McCombs heard a loud gunshot and ran to the living room, where he found his son— Stefhone C. McCombs Jr.—crying and bleeding, the newspaper reported. He drove his son to Mary Immaculate Hospital, where he died of his injuries.
During an investigation into the shooting, the officer told investigators that he does not normally leave guns unattended within the reach of his children. But when officers searched his home, they found another gun unsecured on a kitchen counter, according to the Daily Press.
The father first began serving as a police officer in September 2020 and has been on paid administrative leave since the incident. He is charged with a misdemeanor of allowing access to firearms by a minor, facing up to one year in jail. He is expected to appear in court again on March 16.
Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew defended only charging him with a misdemeanor to the newspaper.
“When I look at the totality and the balance and the humanity side of things, there is no penalty, no fee, no fine, no sentence, no anything that can replace the loss of your child,” Drew said. “This was an error in judgment. It’s a tragic, tragic event, and my heart breaks for that family. I didn’t want to sensationalize that.”
It’s the latest example of children obtaining access to a gun before accidentally shooting themselves. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents that if they must keep guns in the home, they should always be unloaded, locked and in a place where children cannot access them. Ammunition should be placed in a separate spot.
On Christmas Eve, a 2-year-old in Missouri obtained access to a gun, accidentally discharging it and fatally shooting himself. In January, a 4-year-old boy died after a gun discharged in the backseat of a car while adults smoked marijuana in the front eat.
Newsweek reached out the Newport News Police Department for comment Saturday afternoon, but did not hear back by publication. This story will be updated with any response.