TOWN N COUNTRY — Linda Maddox was asleep when she heard something scraping across the wood floor at about 1 a.m.
Maddox had been worried something bad might happen in the night. She had jammed a chair under the knob of the bedroom door as a precaution while her son worked the night shift Monday.
Thinking someone had broken into her house, she grabbed her .22 revolver from beside the bed, aimed for the door and fired into the dark.
She recognized the scream that followed.
Maddox, 63, didn’t hit an intruder. She shot her 7-year-old grandson Tyler Maddox, who had been sleeping in the room with her and his twin brother and who had gotten out of bed for some reason.
The bullet hit Tyler in the upper body, deputies said. He underwent surgery at St. Joseph’s Hospital on Tuesday afternoon and was listed in critical but stable condition Tuesday night.
An investigation into the shooting is still ongoing, sheriff’s officials said. Maddox has not been charged with a crime.
Public records provide few clues about why Maddox was so worried about an intruder that she would barricade her bedroom door. Her son, Reginald Maddox, 42, and his twin sons Tyler and Tyrique, live with her in her home at 6505 Alta Monte Drive, records show.
Deputies have been called out to the home several times over the years, but not for anything serious, a sheriff’s office spokeswoman said. The calls included reports of a suspicious person and a non-violent mentally ill person.
Maddox was in the routine of propping the chair against the door and keeping her gun close whenever she was home alone at night with the twins, which was usually once or twice a week, said sheriff’s office spokeswoman Cristal Bermudez Nunez.
“That’s just what she does,” she said.
Neighbors on Tuesday described the street, just south of Hillsborough Avenue in Town and Country, as peaceful and quiet.
“This area is calm,” said Carmen Escoto, who has lived across from Linda Maddox for five years. “There’s no loud music or people running around.’’
Neighbor Marlene Cardoso added: “She might be nervous or had a fear of something.”
Gun control policy experts said accidental shootings like this one aren’t uncommon but are easily avoidable.
One of the universal rules of gun safety is to identify the target, experts say.
A good instructor will teach students to be aware of what they are shooting at and what is directly behind the target, said Bill Bunting, a Republican state committeeman from Pasco County who has been the Second Amendment Chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.
“You can always shout out, ‘Who’s there?” Bunting said. “That would have probably been the more appropriate thing.”
Ladd Everitt, a spokesman for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, said such shootings are too common because of a lack of mandatory safety courses for gun owners.
“They’re just lethal weapons,” he said about guns. “When you combine them with poor judgement or a moment of passion, you get tragic consequences that wouldn’t happen otherwise.”
The family declined comment when contacted by the Tribune on Tuesday morning and evening.
Rose Doyle, an NRA-certified shooting instructor from Town and Country, said proper gun training and use can virtually eliminate unintended shootings.
“I never call it an accident,” she said. “It’s a negligent discharge.”
Doyle said she teaches that shooters need to be aware of the layout of their houses and understand that they shouldn’t fire their gun until they know their target and what’s beyond it. Every gun owner, she said, is responsible for every bullet that leaves that gun.
“Unfortunately, not everyone who owns a gun takes a class,” Doyle said. “That’s a shame, because these things could be avoided.”
Staff Writer Jose Patino Girona contributed to this report.