An Ohio father who police said shot and killed his 14-year-old son when he mistook him for an intruder will not be charged in the incident, prosecutors said Wednesday.
The 72-year-old man, who has not been named, told authorities he thought his son had gone to school Tuesday morning when he heard a noise in the basement at his Cincinnati home. He said he grabbed his gun and went to check it out.
The man said he opened a closet door and his son shouted “boo,” according to the prosecutor. He got spooked, he said, and shot his son — striking him in the neck.
“I just shot my son by accident,” he told a 911 operator, according to CNN affiliate WCPO. “He scared me. I thought he was in school. I heard noise and then I went downstairs looking. He jumped out at me. I shot him.”
“Oh God,” the father said in the audio obtained by the news station. “Why didn’t you go to school?”
The teen was transported to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, where he died, police said.
There have been several recent incidents in which victims have been mistaken as intruders and killed. Last month, a woman in Florida fatally shot her daughter when she saw someone coming toward her as she tried to sleep.
“The homeowner fired one round at the subject,” St. Cloud Police Sgt. Denise Roberts said in a news release. “The subject was later identified as the homeowner’s daughter.”
Also last year, a 15-year-old boy in Montana was fatally shot in the head when he woke up a friend by throwing rocks and rapping on a window.
Three years ago, Oscar Pistorius, the double-amputee Olympian, fatally shot his girlfriend, then claimed he thought she was an intruder when he killed her on Valentine’s Day in 2013. Pistorius was later convicted of murder.
Gary Kleck, a professor at the College of Criminology & Criminal Justice at Florida State University, found in the late 1990s that fewer than 2 percent of accidental gun deaths involved someone being mistaken for an intruder.
“Incidents in which householders shoot family members mistaken for burglars and other criminals have occurred, but they are extremely rare,” he wrote in his book “Targeting Guns: Firearms and Their Control” in 1997.
Reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that there were 505 accidental deaths from firearms in 2013 and 586 in 2014, though the data does not determine whether any were cases of mistaken identity.
Figures for 2015 were not available.
In Tuesday’s incident, the father who fatally shot his son said he had watched the teen walk to the bus stop and then watched the bus drive away, according to the Hamilton County prosecutor’s office. He said he had tried to text his son to make sure he had made it to the bus when the teen called to confirm that he had.
When the father heard noises downstairs, he said, he thought it was an intruder.
Authorities said the father fired a single shot with a .45 revolver and hit his son.
“There is only one word for this — tragedy,” prosecutor Joseph Deters said Wednesday in a statement. “It is impossible to imagine how horrible this father must feel for mistaking his son for an intruder. All of the forensic evidence matches what the father told the police, and, therefore, no charges are appropriate.”
Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control advocacy organization, called Tuesday’s incident “a heartbreaking, yet preventable tragedy.”
“Unfortunately, this is another reminder of the gun violence that takes 88 lives each day and injures hundreds more,” Stacey Radnor, a spokesperson for the group, said in a statement. “Americans live in a culture fostered by the idea that we should shoot first and ask questions later. Our priority is creating a culture of responsible gun ownership, flanked by common-sense gun laws.”
Authorities did not release the father’s name because no charges were filed.
This story has been updated.