In a country with an estimated 270 to 310 million guns, fatal accidental shootings are very rare. There were just 600 in 201o, according to the Centers for Disease Control, compared to 19,308 suicides and 11,015 homicides that same year.
In Prince George’s County, a 6-year-old child accidentally shot and killed himself with a revolver he found in a backpack in 2012. But aside from that tragedy, police hadn’t investigated many other fatal accidental shootings when they responded to a frantic 911 call on Jan. 9 from a residence in Brandywine.
Errick Lamarr Pratt Jr., an aspiring hip hop artist who was known as PopSmoothe, lay dying inside with a bullet wound to his head. The 23-year-old had been shot with his own gun, a Mossberg .22-caliber rifle, as a friend toyed with it.
After investigating the incident, Prince George’s police and prosecutors decided last month not to pursue charges against PopSmoothe’s friend, Tyrez Noels, 22.
“There’s nothing to indicate that this was anything other than a tragic accident,” Prince George’s County police spokeswoman Julie Parker said.
According to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a non-profit focused on preventing gun violence, from 2005 to 2010, nearly 3,800 people in the U.S. died from unintentional shootings and 1,300 victims of were younger than 25.
Here are a few examples of accidental shooting that occurred recently in the Washington area.
On March 18, 2013: A Sterling teenager was fatally shot after he apparently entered a home thinking it was his own and was mistaken for a burglar or home invader. Police said Caleb Gordley, 16, had been drinking and entered a neighbor’s home through a back window.
On Oct. 27, 2013: a 12-year-old was killed in an accidental shooting in Madison County, Virginia, police reported.
On March 18, 2013: Baltimore police were called to a home, where they found a 46-year-old man suffering from a single gunshot wound. Police said the man, Vygants Tomas Campe, who was a visitor in the home, was lying on a sofa in the first-floor living room while the home’s owner was handling a pistol upstairs. Police said the pistol discharged. A bullet went through floor and hit Campe, who was lying on the sofa. The man later died.
Jason Nichols, a lecturer in department of African American Studies at the University of Maryland, said people who handle guns do not always have the proper training or respect for the power of the weapons.
“If you ask a lot of people living in D.C., they probably know someone who shot themselves—just as often as they know people who shot other people,” Nichols said. “I know two people who shot themselves with a weapon. One guy shot himself in the foot. I think it is important, if you are going to handle a weapon, respect the weapon and the power it has to take someone’s life away. Unfortunately, things happen like the accident in Brandywine.” PopSmooth lost his life, Nichols said, because he and his friends “didn’t understand the power of the weapon or how to use one.”