A 13-year-old Buena Park boy was in critical condition Tuesday after he was shot in the head by a friend, apparently accidentally, authorities said.
The incident is the third in just over a month involving Orange County teen-agers shooting other youngsters inside homes.
Adam LaFortune of Buena Park was playing in the upstairs master bedroom at his 12-year-old friend’s home in a middle-class La Palma neighborhood when he was shot at close range about 9:30 p.m. Monday, police said. Paramedics took him to Los Alamitos Medical Center.
Although no one has been charged, police are withholding the name of the 12-year-old boy until a final determination is made that the shooting was an accident, said La Palma Police Cmdr. Vince Giampa.
“As far as we’re concerned up to this point, we’re considering it accidental,” Giampa said. “We’re not holding anyone at this point.”
Neighbors said that the home belongs to Gary MacNamara.
The 12-year-old had taken the .22-caliber handgun from a shelf in the master bedroom as Adam was playing a computer game, Giampa said. As the younger boy approached him, Adam looked back toward him. Adam was shot once in the forehead from one to two feet away, Giampa said.
Police said the 12-year-old’s mother was downstairs but no one else was in the house at the time.
When police arrived, the mother had wrapped Adam’s head in a towel. He was still sitting in the chair at the computer.
Giampa said the 12-year-old boy told investigators that he had pulled the trigger not knowing that the gun had been loaded.
Giampa added that tests were being done on the gun. “It would be premature to say he pulled the trigger if, in fact, the gun malfunctioned,” Giampa said.
Giampa said that although it was “common knowledge” among family members where the gun was, the parents told police that it was kept unloaded in a closet.
“The rule was that the gun was never to be loaded,” he said.
Police suspect that the boy’s older brother somehow got ammunition for the gun, but “we don’t know when or who loaded it,” Giampa said. The boy has a 16-year-old and 10-year-old brother, he said.
Giampa added that the 12-year-old “has in the past handled the weapon in his dad’s presence.” He did not know for what reason. His father was out of town when the shooting took place.
According to police and neighbors, Adam and the 12-year-old had known each other for a long time and were best friends. Members of each family refused comment Tuesday.
Police said the latest incident underscores the need to place handguns out of children’s reach when weapons are stored in the home.
On May 24, a 17-year-old Anaheim Hills boy examining his parents’ pistol in the upstairs room of their home shot and killed 17-year-old Christian Wiedepuhl. The shooting is still under investigation. Four years earlier, the same boy, then in junior high school, fired a round while examining his parents’ shotgun and killed 13-year-old Jeffrey Bush.
On June 14, Richard Hubler, 14, allegedly shot his 12-year-old sister Gema in the head with a rifle at their Anaheim Shores home. Gema Hubler died the next week, and Richard Hubler was then charged with murder. Police have not disclosed where Hubler got the gun.
“Firearms of any sort should never be within the reach of children,” Giampa said. “This is a perfect example of something that turned into an unfortunate incident.”