Boy's death ruled suicide, called accident

April 12, 2010|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- The death Thursday of an 11-year-old boy in Martinsburg has been ruled a suicide by the West Virginia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, but Berkeley County's prosecuting attorney said the evidence in the case indicates it was an accidental shooting.

"Medically, this is going to be listed as a suicide because it's by your own hand, but legally, based on all the facts that we have, it is an accidental shooting," Pamela Jean Games-Neely said Monday.

"It is a child mishandling a gun," she said. "We certainly do not believe the intent was for the child to kill himself."

Martinsburg Police Detective G.B. Swartwood said Monday he "concurs and agrees" with Games-Neely's opinion. He said in a news release that the department's investigation of the shooting was ongoing.


An autopsy by Deputy Chief Medical Examiner Matrina Schmidt concluded that the child's cause of death was "contact, gunshot wound to the head" with an automatic pistol, and she ruled the manner of death as suicide, according to the release.

The shooting in an apartment in the 600 block of Faulkner Avenue was reported at 9:10 p.m., police have said. A .45-caliber pistol was found in the boy's hand, police have said.

Eyewitnesses told investigators they observed the boy holding the gun to his head "and that they were yelling at him to put the gun down," police said in the release.

"They were attempting to intercede when the decedent discharged the gun, shooting himself in the head," police said in the release.

An older sister was present when the shooting occurred, Games-Neely has said. Police said Friday that the apartment was not the boy's residence, but neighbors said he was there frequently.

The owner of the rental property was interviewed by police, and the owner of the gun, who was found the night of the shooting, told investigators how he obtained the firearm and how it ended up in the home.

The Eastern Panhandle Drug and Violent Crimes Task Force and members of the Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives have assisted the police department's investigation, according to the release.

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