WEST MIFFLIN, Pa. (KDKA/AP) — The death of a 6-year-old West Mifflin boy who police said was shot by his 10-year-old brother last month has been ruled a homicide. Now, the mother could be charged.
Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala said he has authorized a charge of endangering the welfare of a child in the shooting that claimed the life of 6-year-old Julian Hoffman.
Officers and paramedics were sent to a West Mifflin home on Aug. 9 and found the wounded child, who died later at a hospital.
The Allegheny County medical examiner’s office said Monday that Hoffman died of a gunshot wound to the head.
Police said Hoffman’s 10-year-old brother fired the gun in the bedroom of their mother, who officials said was at work at the time. Police said he first called his mother and then called 911 at her urging.
Zappala said the 10-year-old found the gun in his mother’s purse.
“She has the gun in a purse, she goes to work, she leaves the purse in the car. The boyfriend takes the purse in the house. The 10-year-old finds the gun,” Zappala said. “He discharges the weapon, and I think it’s a single shot and the 6-year-old dies.”
Zappala said the 10-year-old has some personal issues, but has not been charged in the case.
“The 10-year-old has some personal problems, personal issues. When the detectives briefed me on issues about the home that this 10-year-old lived in and the circumstances under which he was growing up, my guys were directed to file a dependency petition to take him out of the house to make sure that he’s cared for properly,” Zappala said. “I don’t think he’s at the age where you can charge him with homicide.”
Zappala added, “There’s some issue about him being on medication and not getting the medication; possibly the medication is ending up on the streets. That’s pretty bad stuff.”
That could mean other charges in this case. The DA says investigators continue to look at the extenuating circumstances.
Superintendent Coleman McDonough said the .9 mm pistol appeared to have been legally owned by the woman.
“The evidence in the case as I understand it, you’re not talking about a homicide charge against an adult,” Zappala said. ”I didn’t see a homicide against the mom or boyfriend.”
It is not clear when the investigation will be complete. Although a charge has been approved for the boy’s mother, no charges have been filed yet.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)