New Castle News

January 17, 2013

No charges for man who fatally shot son

Tom Davidson
Sharon Herald

NEW CASTLE — The man who accidentally shot and killed his 7-year-old son in the parking lot of a gun store won’t face criminal charges.

Joseph V. Loughrey, 44, of Jefferson Township, could have been charged with a misdemeanor for carrying a firearm without a license, according to Mercer County District Attorney Robert G. Kochems.

However, the evidence in the case doesn’t support the charge, Kochems said.

“Mr. Loughrey’s shooting of his son was a tragic accident.”

The incident happened Dec. 8 in East Lackawannock Township. Craig Allen Loughrey died in the parking lot of Twig’s Re-Loading Den, 8388 Sharon-Mercer Road.

The father and son had stopped at the store at about 11 a.m. because Loughrey wanted to sell a rifle and a 9 mm handgun. He was leaving after securing the rifle in the back of his pickup and had placed the pistol on the console when it went off, hitting Craig in the chest.

Mercer County Coroner J. Bradley McGonigle pronounced the boy dead at the scene at 11:40 a.m. and ruled the manner of death accidental.

Loughrey thought the magazine was empty but he didn’t realize there was a bullet still in the chamber, he told investigators.

Kochems issued a statement Tuesday and said he would not elaborate further.

“The evidence … shows that Mr. Loughrey recognized that he could not carry a loaded firearm in his vehicle and believed he unloaded the firearm at home before taking it to the dealer to attempt to sell it and another weapon,” Kochems wrote. “Mr. Loughrey’s attention was not entirely focused on the handling and transportation of the firearm.”

Kochems’ news release went on to say:

Loughrey’s weapon was stored in a locked location in his home without the magazine in the pistol. He unloaded the magazine before leaving his home. The pistol had been stored in that manner since he had shot it last summer. He only had owned the weapon for the past two years and rarely practiced with it. He had failed to clear the chamber of the cartridge that caused his son’s death the last time he had fired the pistol and did not do so when he picked it up months later and took it to sell.

The purpose of the crime of firearms not to be carried without a license is not to allow an individual to have a loaded firearm in a vehicle or concealed on his person without a license.

Loughrey’s lack of attention to his firearm, his lack of understanding, practice and/or training in what was required to store the firearm unloaded and his then carrying it in his vehicle loaded would allow the filing of the foregoing charge.

Loughrey had a mistaken but good faith belief that he had properly secured and stored the firearm unloaded in his home and his belief was the proximate cause of the death of his son and not that he was carrying the firearm in his vehicle.

“Therefore, I have determined not to authorize the filing of the criminal charge of ‘firearms not to be carried without a license’,” Kochems wrote.

“I am determined that our community learns from this tragedy through rational discussion and not become distracted by a polarizing criminal case,” he said. “I believe we have a constitutional right to own firearms and I own a number myself.

“I do not believe that firearms should be owned without the personal commitment to the responsibilities of that ownership,” Kochems wrote. “Persons who make the decision to own a firearm for personal protection must recognize that their primary purpose in owning the firearm is to kill someone or something.

“They have an obligation to know how the firearm works not just on the day they purchase it but on every occasion that they touch it and always remembering its purpose. Every training class tells a responsible firearm owner to store the weapon unloaded. As this case demonstrates, you must know how to unload your firearm to follow this maxim.

“It is why a common mantra is to treat every firearm as if it were loaded. The training is disingenuous because an unloaded firearm is of no use in many personal protection situations, nor is an unloaded firearm with a loaded magazine or cartridges next to the weapon safe from inexperienced persons, especially children.”

Accidents can happen, as this tragic case shows, Kochems said, adding he believes accidents, injuries and deaths will be reduced “if we engage in a conscious discussion of responsible firearms ownership.”