PLANT CITY — A 9-year-old boy was seriously injured Wednesday afternoon when he was shot in the cheek as he and his 11-year-old brother were handling a handgun in their house, authorities said.
“It’s serious but he’s expected to survive,” Hillsborough County sheriff’s Det. Larry McKinnon said.
The 9-year-old, 11-year-old and their 13-year-old brother were home alone at 5721 Turkey Tree Lane in Plant City when they took the .45-caliber semi-automatic handgun from their mother’s locked bedroom, McKinnon said.
The mother had secured the bedroom door with a padlock and hasp but the three boys managed to get inside the door by removing the hasp. The gun was owned by the mother’s boyfriend, McKinnon said.
The boys took the gun behind the rural home and spent 30 to 45 minutes target practicing before returning it to the mother’s bedroom, McKinnon said.
The two younger brothers returned to the bedroom to retrieve the gun and it discharged, hitting the 9-year-old in the cheek. The sheriff’s office received a 911 call just before 1 p.m..
The child was taken from the home, just west of Turkey Creek Road, to a local hospital. He was listed in serious condition.
“The mother is visibly shaken as you might imagine. The boys are very upset,” McKinnon said.
The department said it would not release any names until it determines whether criminal charges will be filed. McKinnon noted that the mother did take steps to secure the gun.
Hillsborough property records list the owner of the home on Turkey Tree Lane as Gene Bailey.
The mother was at work at the time of the shooting and the boys’ 18-year-old sister, who also lives at the home, was not there either.
Sheriff’s investigators with the Child Protective Division were assisting in the case. The family is cooperating. McKinnon said the shooting serves as a reminder that parents should talk to their children about guns.
“You should always educate your children about firearms safety,” he said.