Updated at: 01/16/2013 11:37 AM
By JOE MANDAK
(AP) PITTSBURGH - A district attorney has decided not to file criminal charges against a man in the accidental fatal shooting of his 7-year-old son outside a western Pennsylvania gun store.
Mercer County District Attorney Robert Kochems announced he wouldn’t charge Joseph Loughrey, 44, of Jefferson Township, with carrying a firearm without a license.
Kochems said he considered the charge, a misdemeanor punishable by up to five years in prison, because Loughrey’s gun was loaded when he put it in his truck moments before the gun fired on Dec. 8, killing his son, Craig. The boy had been buckling himself into his safety seat in his father’s truck when the handgun, which was placed on the truck’s console, fired as Joseph Loughrey got into the front seat, police said.
Loughrey had removed the magazine from the pistol but didn’t realize there was still a round in the chamber when he tried to sell the 9mm pistol at Twig’s Reloading Den in East Lackawannock Township, about 60 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, police said. When the sale didn’t go through, Loughrey brought the gun back to the truck, where it accidentally fired.
Kochems said in a statement that the evidence "shows that Mr. Loughery recognized that he could not carry a loaded firearm in his vehicle and believed he unloaded the firearm at home before taking it to the dealer to attempt to sell it and another weapon." Only people with a license to carry a concealed weapon may keep a loaded gun in their vehicle, said the statement, first reported Wednesday by The Herald newspaper of Sharon, Pa.
Kochems said his investigation determined that Loughrey stored the gun at home in a locked location, separate from the magazine, from which Loughrey unloaded the bullets before taking the gun with him to sell that day. Loughrey had stored the gun that way since he last shot it over the summer.
Loughrey "only owned the weapon for the past two years and rarely practiced with it," Kochems said Tuesday in the statement. "He had failed to clear the chamber of the cartridge that caused his son’s death the last time he had fired the pistol and did not do so when he picked it up months later and took it to sell."
Kochems said he still could have filed the unlicensed firearm charge because of Loughrey’s "lack of understanding, practice and/or training" about how he should have properly stored the firearm, but he decided not to because Loughrey "had a mistaken but good faith belief that he had properly secured and stored the firearm unloaded in his home and his belief was the proximate cause of the death of his son and not that he was carrying the firearm in his vehicle."
Loughrey does not have a listed home telephone number and did not immediately return a call to a cellphone number obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press.
Kochems declined to comment beyond his statement, which stressed his belief in a constitutional right to own firearms.
"I own a number myself," the statement said. "Further, with the reduction of public safety forces firearms ownership may be becoming more necessary.
"Persons who make the decision to own a firearm for personal protection must realize that their primary purpose in owning the firearm is to kill someone or something. They have an obligation to know how the firearm works not just on the day they purchase it but on every occasion that they touch it and always remembering its purpose."
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)