Raeford — A 9-year-old fourth-grader was playing with his sister and his best friend when a handgun went off, wounding him in the head Thursday, authorities said.
The children were alone in a home at 143 Independence Drive in Raeford when the 10-year-old boy who lived there brought out a gun. His parents had tucked the .25-caliber weapon away in a drawer, Hoke County Sheriff Hubert A. Peterkin said.
"Evidently, the son knew where it was and was showing off, horseplaying with it, not realizing how serious it was," Peterkin said. "The gun went off."
A bullet struck the 9-year-old in the head. He was airlifted to WakeMed in Raleigh and remained on life support Thursday night. Hospital staff listed him in critical condition.
"I heard a loud pop, and since I was ex-military, I knew what a gunshot sounded like," neighbor Telly Strayhorn said.
The 10-year-old girl, who is in fifth grade, was not injured. Investigators said they were able to piece together the time line of the accidental shooting by talking to the 10-year-old fifth-grade boy and his parents.
Strayhorn said the accidental shooting shocked him, especially since it involved three children who were close friends.
"I walked him (the 10-year-old boy) to the bus in the morning time," Strayhorn said. "The victim, I knew him, too, because they all ride the same bus.
"That's why it's kind of hard, because ... I knew they were best friends."
Peterkin said the tragic accidental shooting should be another reminder about gun safety, especially when children are involved.
"Anybody we can encourage to secure your weapons, please secure your guns. We just got to do it," he said.
Social workers were called in after the shooting and decided there was no cause to remove the 10-year-old boy who accidentally shot his friend from his home. However, authorities said his parents might face charges.