Mercer boy, 7, dies after father's gun goes off

No charges filed over accident in car outside gunshop

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MERCER -- Joseph Loughrey and his son Craig, 7, were in Twig's Reloading Den for less than a minute on Saturday morning. They turned around almost as quickly as they'd come in when owner Gladys Mohney told them she didn't want to buy the guns Mr. Loughrey was trying to sell.

He'd come to the East Lackawannock gun store to sell his Marlin rifle and 9 mm handgun. Craig, whose parents are divorced, was on a weekend visit with his dad.

Ms. Mohney hadn't even registered the boy, really, when he came in -- he wasn't tall enough to be seen over the counter.

Soon after they left, she heard a soft pop. Ms. Mohney assumed it was hunters in the forest for the last day of deer season. It was only five minutes later, when the store's gravel parking lot filled with ambulances and squad cars, that she knew something was wrong.

State police say Mr. Loughrey, 44, of Sharpsville was getting back inside his pickup truck when the 9 mm handgun went off, the bullet flying through Craig's chest as he sat in a booster seat on the passenger side. He died instantly.

No charges were filed against Mr. Loughrey, and state police Cpl. Douglas Maxwell said he doesn't anticipate doing so.

Mr. Loughrey didn't know there was a bullet in the handgun chamber.

After the shooting, Mr. Loughrey started driving toward the hospital, but he didn't leave the parking lot before realizing that help was needed right away, said Cpl. Maxwell.

Paramedics arrived and began working on Craig in the parking lot.

"All of a sudden they stopped and stood up," said Darrell Howard, watching next door at Howard and Son Meat Packing.

Shortly after the shooting, Amanda Loughrey -- Craig's mother and Mr. Loughrey's ex-wife -- was eating at a King's restaurant in New Castle with her partner, Heather Groeger. The two were taking a break from Christmas shopping for Ms. Loughrey's sons Paul and Jack. All of Craig's gifts had already been purchased.

Ms. Groeger received a voicemail message from state police telling them to report to Ms. Loughrey's parents' house immediately. The two women's first thought was that something had happened to Craig's grandparents, Ms. Groeger said.

Craig lived with his mother and Ms. Groeger in a red house a block away from the Fredonia town diamond, in a house overflowing with pets and Christmas decorations. His stocking hangs last on the staircase, resting against a tank with two turtles.

"He loved his mom more than anything," said Ms. Groeger. Craig would tell his mom, "When I turn 18, I'm going to move to China and become a ninja," she said. For practice, he'd dress up as Batman around the house.

Ms. Loughrey didn't like her son to be around guns, said Ms. Groeger. He was on the autism spectrum, and she worried that he'd confuse reality with his superhero fantasy.

region - neigh_north

Erich Schwartzel: eschwartzel@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1455.


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