NEW YORK -- A 4-year-old boy picked up his father's loaded .22 caliber rifle, walked outside and shot a 6-year-old friend in the head, leaving the victim in serious condition and shattering a normally quiet New Jersey neighborhood.
The shooting occurred Monday evening in Toms River, N.J., about 70 miles south of New York City, one day after an incident in Tennessee involving a 4-year-old who got his hands on a loaded gun. In the Tennessee shooting, the boy picked up a loaded gun, which went off and killed a 48-year-old woman.
At a televised news conference Tuesday, Toms River Police Chief Michael Mastronardy said the 4-year-old's parents were outside with some neighbors Monday evening. The boy walked into his house, came outside with the loaded rifle, and "a shot went out," Mastronardy said.
The 6-year-old, who lives in the neighborhood and is a playmate of the younger boy, was struck in the head. Neighbors said he was sitting in a go-cart when he was hit.
Daniel Watkins, an uncle of the victim, told reporters that his nephew was in stable condition.
"It's really difficult to deal with. This is something that shouldn't have happened," he said.
A neighbor named Debi Coto expressed shock that the gun had been so easily accessible to the boy. "What was wrong with that father -- a loaded rifle? I mean, can a 4-year-old load a rifle? It's so sad," she told reporters.
Police said it was too early to say if any charges would be filed. Under New Jersey law, a gun owner can be held criminally liable for allowing a minor to get hold of a loaded firearm.
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