Police: Child, 4, accidentally kills woman at cookout

Posted at 10:07 AM, Apr 09, 2013
and last updated 2013-04-09 10:07:31-04


By Joe Sterling

(CNN) — It happened in just seconds, by all accounts.

A gunshot killed a lawman’s wife this weekend in Lebanon, Tennessee. And the tragedy is one more instance of gun violence reverberating across a nation obsessed and at odds over the politics of firearms.

A pistol in the hands of a 4-year-old boy went off Saturday and killed Josephine Fanning, the 48-year-old wife of Wilson County Sheriff’s Deputy Daniel Fanning.

The incident occurred at a cookout on what had been a lazy, happy day.

The deputy and a relative went into a bedroom to look at some of the lawman’s guns, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Kristin Helm said.

Josephine Fanning and the boy walked into the room later.

At some point, the boy picked up a loaded pistol from a bed, she said. The gun involved was Fanning’s personal weapon, not his service pistol, she said.

The single shot killed the woman. Now, the community — just east of Nashville — is beside itself with grief.

Deputy Fanning, in an e-mail to CNN affiliate WKRN, said he had set down his off-duty weapon “only seconds before the tragedy.”

“I would like the viewers to know that officers of Wilson County do not make a habit of leaving loaded guns simply lying around,” he said.

“The door to the room the accident happened in stays locked unless we were sleeping or we were in it. This was the only loaded gun in the house other than my duty weapon, which was locked away.”

The state bureau said it has taken all witness statements and its initial investigation is complete, but the bureau’s case will remain open until the final autopsy and evidence is analyzed in the crime lab, Helm said.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, which looks into incidents involving law enforcement officers, said no charges have been filed.

Wilson County Sheriff Robert Bryan said Fanning had been showing “another person that was there at the house some of his weapons he had locked in a secure gun safe,” according to CNN affiliate WTVF.

Bryan said no one saw the deputy’s 4-year-old nephew saunter into the room, WTVF said.

“Split second. We’re talking about seconds for that kid to walk in that room unbeknownst to them, grab that gun and it goes off,” Bryan said. “He took all the precautions, he’s a trained law enforcement officer, trains with weapons all the time.”

CNN affiliate WSMV said Fanning is a school resource officer at Sam Houston Elementary School in Lebanon. He and Josephine had been married for about a year.

“Nobody is immune to this,” Bryan said, according to WSMV. “It doesn’t matter if you are a law enforcement officer. These things can happen in seconds.”

CNN’s Matt Smith and Joe Sutton contributed to this report.