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Man Accidentally Wounded by 4-Year-Old Neighbor Dies

August 08, 1998|CLAIRE VITUCCI | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

PACOIMA — A 23-year-old man was killed by his own gun when a 4-year-old neighbor wandered into his bedroom, picked up the loaded rifle hidden beneath a bed and shot him, authorities said Friday.

Isaac Alvarez died Thursday night at Pacifica Hospital of the Valley in Sun Valley where he had been fighting for his life after being shot in the back of his neck on July 17, said Los Angeles Police Lt. Rick Papke.

"It's another tragic example of people not putting their guns away," Papke said.

About 7:45 p.m. that day, the LAPD's Foothill Division received a call from the hospital reporting a gunshot victim had been taken to the emergency room.

Alvarez was sharing a bedroom with his 18-year-old brother, Espiridion Alvarez, in a converted garage on Brownell Street when the neighbor boy walked in, Papke said.

"They weren't paying much attention to him, the victim had his back to the boy," Papke said. "The other one saw him come in, but he turned away momentarily. He heard the gunshot, saw his brother go down and saw the kid with the rifle."

The boy "said he thought it was a toy," Papke said.

"Toy rifles are out there," Papke said. "They play with toy rifles all the time. They are just like real guns."

Detectives have not been able to reach the boy or his mother since the shooting, Papke said. Neither the mother of the boy nor the victim's brother are expected to be charged, he said.

"It's one of those totally unintentional acts," said police spokesman Lt. Anthony Alba.

Los Angeles Police Department officials said the accident underscored the need for gun owners to install trigger locks.

LAPD officials were attempting to determine late Friday whether there had been any similar accidental shootings in Los Angeles involving shooters as young as 4. The July 17 accident appeared to be the first, police said.

Each year about 1,500 children 14 and younger are injured in accidental shootings, and 150 to 200 die, according to the National Safe Kids Campaign in Washington, D.C.

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