PRESCOTT VALLEY, Ariz. -- A 4-year-old boy accidentally shot and killed his father at a home in Prescott Valley Friday, according to a spokesman for the Prescott Valley Police Dept.
Police have identified the victim as 35-year-old Justin Stanfield Thomas of Phoenix, a military veteran who served in the Army Special Forces. Detectives say he and his son were from Phoenix and they were visiting a friend at that home. The boy found a gun in the living room and accidentally shot his father.
"I really can't believe this happened," said Jeremy Hartt, a neighbor and friend of everyone involved. "It's tragic, that poor little boy."
Hartt said he didn't hear the gunshot but saw the aftermath. He said the friend Thomas was visiting is also a military veteran who keeps a loaded gun for protection.
"Apparently when Justin and his little boy showed up, within minutes, the little boy found the gun and said, 'hey, daddy, what's this?' and it went off," Hartt said.
"He didn't know what was going on; he was just a happy little boy," said Hartt.
Police say it's believed the visit was unannounced, which may explain why the gun was not secured with a child in the house.
"I don't know that this individual had time to do so, but it certainly needs to be at the forefront of anybody's mind if they have a firearm and a child comes in," said Sgt. Brandon Bonney of Prescott Valley Police. "It needs to be priority number one to secure those weapons."
Police are still investigating, but call this a tragic accident.
Jeremy Hartt describes Justin Thomas as a great father and person, a pilot and green beret.
"I know that he wouldn't want us to be sad," said Hartt. "He would always want us to remember the good times we had."