10-year-old shot himself while playing with gun belonging to his city cop dad, who won't face charges
BY GRAHAM RAYMAN.
MASSAPEQUA, N.Y. — The 10-year-old son of a New York City police officer remained in extremely critical condition last night after accidentally shooting himself with his father's gun in his Massapequa home.
Nassau County police officials yesterday ruled the Sunday evening shooting accidental and said the child's father, Officer Joseph Dunne, 39, a 14-year veteran, will not face criminal charges.
Investigators with the New York City Police Department's Internal Affairs Bureau, meanwhile, were looking at whether to file administrative charges against Dunne for failing to secure his weapon, a .38-caliber revolver, as per police regulations. The gun was his off-duty weapon, police said.
Relatives and friends continued a vigil through the day for the boy, Tyler Dunne, at the pediatric intensive care unit at Nassau University Medical Center, where the fifth-grader was being treated.
Police officials said that Tyler found his father's gun in a basement closet at around 6:15 p.m. Sunday, and the weapon discharged while he was playing with it. Dunne, who is assigned to the Midtown North precinct, was reportedly at work when the accident took place.
The blinds were drawn at the family's home, which Dunne and his wife, Jill, bought in 1996, around the time that Tyler was born. A man at the house wearing a Midtown North sweatshirt said the family would have no comment.
In a neighborhood of sun-washed lawns, kids on bikes and basketball hoops, the tragedy left neighbors reeling. They said Dunne doted on his son and daughter, and was often seen coaching Tyler in baseball.
Across the street from the home, neighbor Mary Puglia said she saw paramedics remove the bandaged child on a stretcher from the home on Sunday night. "Something like that, I feel sorry for the mother and father," she said. "I remember once I told him, you should come over and play with my grandson John, and he said 'I'm not allowed to cross the street.'"
James Vannetter, a union carpenter polishing his Ford Cougar in the driveway, said he often saw Tyler paying catch with his dad on their cul-de-sac. "It's a shame, what happened," he said. "He was always interested in my car. He'd tell me it was too loud, and I would downshift to make it even louder."
A few blocks away at the Lockhart Elementary school, parents walked their children home at the end of what was described as a long, somber day at the school. Tyler sang in the chorus there and played sports, and it was hard to find someone who didn't at least know of him.
Maureen Flaherty, Massapequa school district superintendent, said grief counselors were brought early yesterday to the school, and each teacher was given the difficult task of informing his or her students that Tyler had been the victim of an accident. Some of the children did not know until they arrived at school in the morning.
"It's been an upsetting experience for everyone - the parents and the faculty," Flaherty said. "You have to tell the children the truth, that there was an accident and that the outcome was not promising."
She said the school principal, teachers and she herself went to the hospital Sunday night.
Some parents said the accident led them to reinforce the concept of gun safety with their kids. "It was a horrible tragedy," said one parent, who would not give her name. "It brought back the discussions I had with my kids. If you see a gun, don't touch the gun. Go find an adult."