The Hennepin County Attorney's office has charged a Minneapolis man with two felonies in the accidental shooting death of his two-year-old son.
Neejnco Xiong died earlier this month after he was accidentally shot by his four-year-old brother. According to the charges filed today, the boys' father, Kao Xiong, 31, left several guns within reach of the children.
Minneapolis police say they found a total of eight guns in Xiong's south Minneapolis two-bedroom home: four rifles and four semi-automatic handguns. The criminal complaint indicates police found some of the guns stored in taped boxes in a laundry basket on a closet floor, and others in a duffel bag in a closet. They say some guns were secured in cases, some were not. One semi-automatic handgun was located in a case in a kitchen cabinet on top of drinking glasses.
"No self-respecting gun-owner would have a handgun in such condition available to kids. That is a crime."
The handgun used to shoot Neejnco Xiong was wedged between the mattress and pillows of the bed in the master bedroom, said Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman. He said the safety on that gun was not working.
"No self-respecting gun-owner would have a handgun in such condition available to kids," Freeman said. "That is a crime."
Xiong was charged with second-degree manslaughter and endangerment of a child. The first charge carries a maximum penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine. Endangerment of a child can bring a prison sentence of up to five years or a $10,000 fine. Freeman said the case is difficult to prosecute because Xiong has already paid a heavy price by the loss of a child.
"And yet, we have rules. And the rules about having locked guns and unloaded guns and safeties on guns and having guns that aren't available to kids are good laws," Freeman said.
According to the complaint, Xiong told police that he owns guns for hunting. He said he has a permit to carry a gun but could not bring the semi-automatic handgun to his job at a mental health clinic. Xiong told police that on the day of the shooting he tucked the gun behind the mattress in the bedroom, which was a location he had never stored the gun before. He said he was home for lunch at the time of the shooting.
The death of the young boy was a preventable tragedy, assistant Minneapolis police chief Matthew Clark said.
"We understand that the family is grieving and it's a severe loss for them and for the community to lose a child," Clark said. "We want to make it very clear that it is the responsibility of every gun owner to secure their weapons. Make sure they are locked. And that's especially true when you have children in your home."
The shooting is similar to another incident in St. Paul earlier this year. In that case, a toddler who was accidentally shot by a sibling survived. The boy's father pleaded guilty to a gross misdemeanor of negligent storage of a firearm.
An MPR News analysis of state court data shows prosecuting parents for leaving guns around kids is rare, but not unprecedented in Minnesota.
Since 2001, about 85 people in the state have been convicted of one of two potential charges in this kind of case. Both apply to adults who leave unsecured, loaded firearms within reach of a child. The more serious charge considers this an act of child endangerment or neglect, because it could "substantially harm" or lead to the death of the child.
About a third of all of these convictions were prosecuted in Hennepin County.
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