A hot shell casing hit the range wall and bounced into the back of his shirt.
Authorities and the gun range owner said Brumby reached around with his right hand — still holding the loaded .22 semiautomatic handgun — and used the barrel to try to flick the casing from his collar.
He inadvertently pulled the trigger, police said, and one of his children screamed.
“Dad, Stephen’s been shot,” his other son shouted, according to Tampa Bay Times.
Brumby later told the newspaper that the bullet struck his 14-year-old son’s jugular vein during the family’s target-shooting practice Sunday afternoon. The teen was rushed to Sarasota Memorial Hospital, where he died.
The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement that the 64-year-old father has not been charged but, in the days since his son’s tragic death, he accepted full blame for the accident, which he called an “operating error.”
“The gun didn’t kill my boy — I did,” Brumby told CNN. “Every round in the gun is your responsibility. When it fires, you need to stand to account for it.
“That’s what I’ve spent the last two days doing, accounting for my operating error.”
In its most recent report on accidental gun deaths, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed 586 such fatalities in 2014 — an increase from 505 accidental shooting deaths the previous year. Of the 586 victims, 50 were 14 or younger, according to the CDC data.
On Sunday afternoon, William Brumby, who goes by Clayton, took 14-year-old Stephen, along with his 24-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter, to practice at the shooting range in Sarasota, police said.
Brumby told the Times he has been shooting for about three years; his family, he said, practices at the High Noon Gun Range, which claims to be “Sarasota’s #1 Indoor, Air Conditioned Range.” In 2013, the Herald-Tribune called the gun range the spot for “safer, cooler, quieter, greener shooting.”
Brumby said keeps guns in his home, so it was important that his children learn about gun safety.
“We wanted our kids to be aware of guns,” he told CNN after the fatal accident. “I wanted them to be comfortable around them and understand them.”
Investigators said that based on eyewitness accounts and surveillance video, Brumby was shooting in a lane, with a wall to his right. The shell casing struck the wall and bounced into the back of his shirt, police said.
High Noon co-owner John Buchan, who reviewed the video, said Brumby then reached around with the loaded gun — his finger still on the trigger — and used the barrel to try to “flick” the hot casing out of his shirt.
After several attempts, Buchan said, Brumby pulled the trigger — and the bullet struck Stephen.
“It was a direct shot,” Buchan told The Washington Post, clearing up rumors that the errant bullet had ricocheted off the ceiling before it hit the boy.
“It was a terrible tragedy,” he added. “It should have never happened. That man is going through a hell that no father should have to go through.”
Kaitlyn Johnston, a spokeswoman for the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office, told The Post that the investigation is essentially closed based on the eyewitness accounts and video findings, but remains “fluid.”
The gun range owner said his employees are knowledgeable and all safety protocols were followed.
“Everything operated the way it was supposed to operate,” Buchan told The Post, also calling the incident an “operator error.” He added: “There was nothing you could have done. You cannot control a weapon when it’s in somebody else’s hand.”
He said he is not blaming the father but that he found it “baffling.”
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Buchan said about the incident.
Authorities told NBC affiliate WFLA the 14-year-old experienced significant blood loss before he reached Sarasota Memorial Hospital, where he died.
Brumby’s other children were not injured, police said.
“It was a very freak accident; I made a mistake,” he told CNN. “It doesn’t take but a split second for something to go wrong — and that could be [the case] with a gun, it could be with the wrong medicine, it could be with any number of things.”
He added to the Tampa Bay Times: “That’s why yesterday was so stupid and freaky on me because the gun is supposed to be pointed downrange at all times. My first thought was: ‘That was pretty stupid of me. I should’ve put the gun down.’ ”
Stephen, the middle child among seven, was described by relatives as “a meteor that couldn’t be contained,” according to his GoFundMe page, which had raised more than $30,000 by Wednesday afternoon for medical and funeral expenses.
Stephen was homeschooled with his brothers and sisters.
He loved the outdoors — fishing, archery, knife-throwing and shooting, according to his memorial page.
Brumby said Stephen proved to be “a natural” with a gun.
“He would shoot a .45,” the father told the Tampa Bay Times about the boy. “He would shoot anything.”
Stephen also loved music — he played the ukulele and the piano, according to his memorial page, and he was learning guitar and the drums to play in the worship team at his church.
“We have some bright children in this family,” Brumby told the Times, “but none were brighter than he was.”
He had an insatiable appetite to learn and was constantly sharing his wisdom with those around him. He was passionate about his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and dedicated his life to sharing his hope with everyone he met.The families’ only comfort is knowing that He is communing with the heroes of his faith and rejoicing in paradise.
Following his son’s death, Brumby said he will continue to keep firearms in his home.
“I can’t fix this,” Brumby told CNN. “It’s just a great loss, but thankfully we’ll see him someday.
“I have a feeling he’s on a great lake out there.”
This story, originally published July 5, has been updated.