The 5-year-old son of an Anson County deputy accidentally shot himself on Saturday afternoon. His father, Sgt. Josh Beam, has been placed on administrative leave.
The child, Aiden, was responsive and talking when he was taken to Levine Children's Hospital in Charlotte and had no other injuries, according to Sheriff Tommy Allen. He was treated and released from the hospital on Saturday night. Doctors believe the boy should make a full recovery and that the ear should heal back completely, Allen said. Aiden returned to school on Monday morning.
The boy found the deputy's service revolver and fired one round that struck himself through the top of his left ear at about 1:15 p.m., according to Allen. Josh Beam was the only other person in the house but was in another room when Aiden found the gun.
The deputy was not on duty at the time of the shooting. As he lives in Wadesboro, the Wadesboro Police Department is investigating the incident. The Sheriff's Department is also doing an internal investigation and has provided DSS and the District Attorney's office with a copy of the initial report.
Allen could not say what, if any, decisions may be taken regarding Beam until the sheriff's internal investigation is complete. “Right now we are trying to determine how the child got the weapon and managed to fire it,” Allen said. “The deputy is very shaken by this incident to say the least. It appears from the initial medical report that the child will be fine. Our investigation, which will take several days, will determine what actions may be taken regarding the deputy in this matter. At this time the deputy is on administrative leave.”
Allen said the leave is normal. “This is protocol any time a weapon is fired,” Allen said. “We have to go through the steps. Anytime a child is injured, there's a whole series of different steps, and several different agencies are involved.”
This is the first time Allen could remember investigating a situation like this. “I've been doing this for 33 years and I've never run into this situation before,” he said. “We've investigated incidents were children have found guns and shot someone else, but this is the first one where the child shot himself that I can recall investigating.”
The sheriff also addressed the question of this happening to an officer. “He's a law enforcement officer. We're held to a higher standard, but we're human, too,” Allen said. “I'm sure every officer in his career has laid that gun down where he didn't mean to if only for a few minutes. I'm not making excuses or anything, but it happens, and it's rare when it happens.”
Allen said he hopes the situation serves as a reminder about the dangers of guns. “We're just glad the little boy was not injured more seriously,” he said. “I can't tell you how upset the officer is.”
Allen added that he hopes everyone, including officers, will double-check their weapons. “If anything positive comes out of this, I hope it is to remind all of us to make sure any guns we have around the house are stored in a secure place and out of reach from children,” he said via an emailed release. “I'm sure every law enforcement officer who hears this story; the thought will go through their mind: 'Do I secure my weapon properly?' As we see from this event, it only takes a brief [lapse] and a tragedy can occur. We were very fortunate that this was not more tragic. An angel must have been guiding that bullet.”
This incident came hours after a similar accident in Merrillville, Ind., where a 4-year-old boy fatally shot himself with his parents' gun after finding it in their room and taking it to his room. It accidentally discharged and shot him in the head, according to the Chicago Tribune.