4-year-old killed in apparent accidental shooting

LAWRENCE COUNTY, Ala. - Moulton Police are investigating the shooting death of a child.

Greg Randolph, Lawrence County Coroner, confirmed that Zachary Jace Duke, 4, shot himself around 10 a.m. on Tuesday on County Road 181 in the Pinhook community of Moulton. Investigators believe at this time that it was an accident.

"We believe it to be just a tragic accident," said Chief Lyndon McWhorter of Moulton Police, "but our follow-up investigation will get to the facts of the matter."

Randolph believes the boy may have thought the purple handgun was a toy.  He said paramedics took the boy to Lawrence Medical Center for treatment of a gunshot wound to the chest. On the way there, Randolph says the child went into cardiac arrest. The boy was treated for more than two hours before he died.

McWhorter said investigators believe the boy climbed up some furniture inside the house to get to the gun. At least one parent was home at the time the shooting happened.

"I'm not sure what happened in this case, but it's heartbreaking," he stated. "I hate for any family to have to go through this." McWhorter said the investigation will continue, and based on the results the department will make a decision about whether any charges would be brought against the child's parents.

Law enforcement urge you to lock up guns, particularly if you have smaller children at home.

"When you have children of that age, they're curious. Any child that's curious about something, they pick it up. If it's loaded, it can go off at any time," he warned. "Especially with smaller children where a child might get access to a gun, they should be locked away." McWhorter mentioned gun locks, including the cable locks for pistols. You can find more information about them here.

Chief McWhorter said this case takes a toll on all involved, including the first responders, as they work to find out more details about what happened.

"It's one of the things that's hard to walk away from, after seeing something like this," he explained.