Boy points loaded handgun at three friends
RIFLE – A gun loaded with a single bullet in the hands of an 8-year-old boy nearly led to a tragedy Monday night, but disaster was averted just in time.The boy was caught pointing the loaded gun at three friends at the Cottonwood Trailer Park on U.S. Highway 6 just east of Rifle late Monday night, said Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario. “He was making threatening statements to three of his friends,” Vallario said. Before the boy was able to figure out how to fire the gun, an adult from another trailer ran out and took the gun from him. Deputies secured the gun and ammunition when they arrived around 11:20 p.m., according to the police report.The boy allegedly found the gun readily available in his trailer. To complicate matters, the boy’s home was allegedly so unsanitary that deputies deemed it too unsafe for the boy and his siblings to live in. Deputies notified the Garfield County Department of Human Services, which took custody of the boy and his two siblings. Because the boy is so young, he can’t be charged, but his guardians – his mother, her boyfriend, an uncle and another family member – face multiple counts. Each were taken to jail after their arrests.Jeffrey Richard Anton, 27, faces charges of child abuse, reckless endangerment and unlawfully providing or permitting a juvenile to possess a handgun. Ronald Warren McNeal, 53, Sherri Kay McNeal, 29, and David Earl McNeal, 31, were each charged with reckless endangerment and unlawfully providing or permitting a juvenile to possess a handgun.Vallario said it would have been “very easy” for the incident to have turned into a murder situation. “We definitely dodged the bullet here,” Vallario said. “It could have been really bad. … We could have had one dead kid on our hands.”He said this kind of incident is rare in Garfield County, where it’s more common for kids to just find a gun hidden in their home. “But there was a little more serious element to this,” Vallario said. “They took the gun, went out and started threatening friends.”He said the incident is the first such incident he’s ever heard of in the county, but he said it was very similar to last year’s Eric Stoneman case. Stoneman, 14, pleaded guilty to first degree manslaughter earlier this year for killing 9-year-old Taylor DeMarco in Battlement Mesa on July 20, 2005. Stoneman retrieved his mother’s handgun after an argument between DeMarco and another friend, went to the friend’s house and shot DeMarco in the chest. “Clearly, the intent or the formulation in the mind to threaten, scare or harass is there in both cases,” Vallario said. The difference, he said, is that Stoneman killed his friend, while this time, the boy wasn’t able to follow through with his threats and nobody died.
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