A tragic accident involving a four-year-old shooting his three-year-old brother occurred Sunday. Fortunately, the younger brother is OK, but because the father was in another room allegedly smoking marijuana, the St. Louis County police and local media decided to make that the focus of the story.
The shooting happened around noon on Sunday. A loaded gun was hidden inside a closet, and the child was able to reach it. He and his brother played with the gun and it went off, a bullet striking the younger brother in the left shoulder. The child was treated at a local hospital for soft-tissue injury and released.
As the kids were playing with the gun, their father, Larry Madison, 27, was in the next room. Police issued a statement that claims Madison was smoking some weed while his wife was taking a nap. He was arrested for felony child endangerment and misdemeanor possession of marijuana.
Predictably, local media covering the case displayed some reefer madness and not-so-subtly suggested that marijuana was the reason for the shooting.
KMOV (Channel 4)'s headline reads, "Police: Father was smoking pot when boy shot brother in St. Louis County." And in their newscast, the reporter says, "Police say a father left a loaded shotgun where his small children could access it while he smokes marijuana. The result? A four-year-old accidentally shoots his three-year-old brother."
The Post-Dispatch ran a similar headline: "Father was smoking pot when young son shot brother with shotgun, St. Louis County police say." The marijuana charge is then repeated in the lede: "A man was smoking marijuana in another room when one of his young sons shot his brother with a loaded shotgun left within their reach, police say."
KTVI (Channel 2) used the same headline as KMOV, but it didn't bring up the marijuana charge in the newscast.
Brian Schellman of the St. Louis County Police Department tells Daily RFT that Madison legally owned the gun that shot the three-year-old.
It is not certain that, if Madison was in another room ironing clothes, drinking whiskey or being an irresponsible gun owner, the arresting police officers would have issued a statement detailing these activities.
However, the official police press release did mention 420:
On 4/20/14, Defendant left a loaded shotgun in easy access to a 3 year old child and 4 year old child. The 4 year old took the gun and shot his 3 year old brother. Defendant was in another room in the house smoking marijuana.
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