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Police look into possible negligence in toddler's fatal shooting

Detective says siblings found a handgun in a closet and a 7-year-old shot his 2-year-old brother. LAPD says it looks like an accident but charges against the parents have not been ruled out.

July 13, 2010|By Catherine Saillant, Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles police are investigating a North Hills couple on suspicion of negligence after their 2-year-old son was shot to death by his 7-year-old brother with a handgun left unlocked in a closet.

Detectives questioned Darren Eugene Ellis, 36, and Ebony Aiesha Ellis, 24, after the Friday evening shooting in their apartment in the 16700 block of Parthenia Street.

According to a preliminary investigation, a 9-year-old found the .40-caliber handgun in a closet and took it into a bedroom where his siblings were playing, said Det. Floyd Walton of the Los Angeles Police Department's Devonshire Division. The parents were home but were in another part of the residence, Walton said.

The 7-year-old boy accidentally shot his 2-year-old brother, Enjae Rugley, once in the left temple and Darren Ellis, who was in another part of the apartment, came running, Walton said. The father called 911 and tried to revive the boy. The toddler was pronounced dead at a hospital.

The investigator said it appeared to be a tragic accident.

"He thought it was a play gun," said Walton. "Boys play with water guns and things like that, and I'm sure he didn't know it could do real damage."

The Ellises are devastated, he said. Police earlier thought that the 9-year-old son had pulled the trigger, Walton said, but further investigation showed that it was the 7-year-old.

An investigation into whether charges should be brought against the parents is continuing, the detective said. In a house where minors "are likely to be present," California law states that "all firearms should be unloaded, locked … and stored in a locked container."

catherine.saillant@latimes.com

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