PRESCOTT VALLEY, Ariz. -- Authorities in northern Arizona on Monday continued to investigate the events that led to a 4-year-old boy fatally shooting his father last week in what appeared to be a tragic accident.
Justin Stanfield Thomas, 35, along with his son, traveled from Phoenix to Prescott Valley south of Flagstaff on Friday for a surprise visit to a friend's home.
The young boy quickly found a loaded .380 caliber semi-automatic handgun, asked a question about it and pulled the trigger, Prescott Valley police Sgt. Brandon Bonney said.
Bonney said Monday no charges were expected in the case, and that the homeowner didn't have children and kept the weapon for self-defense.
He said the man was in a back bedroom, possibly asleep, when the two arrived, and within a minute the gun went off.
"He really wasn't in a position to know they were there or to go and secure his gun," Bonney said. "With this person, living by himself, there wasn't necessarily any legal requirement to keep that weapon locked away."
Bonney said the case raises questions about how weapons should be stored in the home even when there are no children present.
"We're still responsible for our weapons," Bonney said. "But do we require people to lock them up all the time no matter what, which might defeat the purpose of home defense?"
Larry Kolontar, owner of Common Sense Firearms Training in Des Moines, Iowa, said the issue isn't about whether children are present inside the home. It's about control of your weapon at all times.
"If it's not on you or in a secured location, out of reach and hidden, it needs to be locked up," said Kolontar, who teaches firearms safety. "This is a very sad, horrible situation, but it's one of those things that could have been avoided if the owner would have taken a little more responsibility and secured the weapon."
Prescott Valley police Sgt. Brandon Bonney says Monday that Thomas and his son had traveled from Phoenix to a friend's home in Prescott Valley for a surprise visit when the boy found a loaded gun, asked a question about it and pulled the trigger.
Bonney says investigators are trying to determine whether the tenant had a reasonable amount of time to secure the weapon.
No children lived in the house.
Firearms experts say owning weapons carries a certain responsibility and that young children should be taught to avoid handling them.