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Boy who accidentally shot and killed his 2-year-old brother thought he was firing a play gun, police say

July 12, 2010 |  3:37 pm

Los Angeles police are investigating a North Hills couple for negligence after their 2-year-old son was accidentally shot to death by his 7-year-old brother with a handgun left unlocked in a closet.

Detectives questioned Darren Eugene Ellis, 36, and Ebony Aiesha Ellis, 24, after the Friday shooting at their apartment in the 16000 block of Parthenia Street.

Initial investigation showed that the 7-year-old boy found the .40-caliber handgun in a closet and took it to a bedroom where his siblings were playing, said Det. Floyd Walton of the LAPD Devonshire Division. The children's parents were home but in another part of the residence, Walton said.

The 7-year-old accidentally shot his 2-year-old brother once in the left temple, and his father came running, Walton said. The father called 911 and tried to revive his toddler. The child was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Walton said it appeared to be a tragic accident.

"He thought it was a play gun,'' said Walton, the investigating officer, of the 7-year-old. "Boys play with water guns and things like that, and I'm sure he didn't know it could do real damage."

The parents are devastated, he said. Police earlier thought that another son, age 9, had pulled the trigger; but further investigation showed that it was the 7-year-old, Walton said.

An investigation into whether charges should be brought against the parents is continuing, the detective said. It is illegal to leave a weapon unlocked when it's not in use, he said.

-- Catherine Saillant