A 4-year-old boy accidentally shot and killed his younger brother Wednesday afternoon while playing with their father's handgun in the family's Minneapolis townhouse, police said.
According to police, the 2-year-old victim, identified by family members as Neegnco Xiong, died after his brother discovered the loaded handgun in a bedroom and it discharged while he was handling it.
Paramedics tried to revive Neegnco, but he died in an ambulance at the scene, said Minneapolis police Sgt. William Palmer, who called the shooting "a horrible accident" and a reminder to safely and properly store firearms.
"The Minneapolis Police Department wants to remind everyone who has a firearm in their home that it is their responsibility to lock up firearms to prevent tragic accidents from occurring," Palmer said in a news release.
Several relatives, tears in their eyes, gathered at a nearby apartment house Wednesday.
"I'm in shock. It's scary," said Neegnco's uncle, Yash Xiong.
The children's parents, who were identified by relatives as Kao Xiong (father) and Ma Vang (mother), were at home in the 1900 block of S. 7th St. at the time of the shooting, along with their third child, a 1-year-old, Palmer said. A fourth child, age 5, was at school. Someone inside the townhouse called 911 to report the shooting a little after 12:45 p.m. Palmer said he did not know how many times the handgun was fired.
The couple were taken downtown by police for questioning Wednesday, while the children were placed in child protection.
The results of the investigation will be presented to the Hennepin County attorney's office for possible charges against the parents, Palmer said.
According to Palmer's news release, "It is a crime in Minnesota to store a loaded firearm in a manner where a child can gain access to it."
In August, a 9-year-old St. Paul boy accidentally shot and wounded his 2-year-old brother after he found a loaded handgun in a bedroom cabinet.
The children's father, Lue Xiong, pleaded guilty to negligent storage of a loaded firearm within access of a child. He's scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 13.
Dennis Gerhardstein, a spokesman for the Ramsey County attorney's office, said that Lue Xiong is likely to be sentenced to community service relating to gun-safety education.
Gun for 'personal protection'
Kao Xiong's gun was normally kept on a shelf at the top of a closet, although he sometimes took the gun with him, his brother Yash Xiong said.
Eight years ago, Yash Xiong had accompanied his brother to a Gander Mountain store in Eau Claire, Wis., to purchase the handgun for "personal protection."
His brother had a permit for the gun, he said. Four years ago, the two attended a gun-safety class together. Yash Xiong said they were told that it was all right to keep the gun loaded, but to ensure that the safety catch was on.
But Minneapolis police said Wednesday that firearms should not be stored loaded. Guns should be kept unloaded, with ammunition stored separately, both under lock and key, Palmer said.
Kao and Ma Vang, moved to the Twin Cities five years ago, Yash Xiong said.
Neighbor Ifra Ali described the parents as "a good mom and dad" and the family as "good neighbors."
She did recall seeing the youngsters play with "fake guns" in the back yard. "I didn't realize they had a real gun in the house," she said. "It surprises me."
Yash Xiong said his brother had bought plastic guns for his children to play with at a dollar store.
Another neighbor, Donny Nguyen, said he would often see the boys in the nearby playground chasing one another around with plastic guns and knives. One time, his mother said she saw one of the boys wielding what looked like a small kitchen knife.
"It is very sad," Nguyen said.