Family supported after toddler gun death - Morgan Hill Times: Crime Fire Courts

Family supported after toddler gun death

Gilroy police say investigation will take ‘quite some time’

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Posted: Monday, July 9, 2012 5:58 pm | Updated: 2:57 pm, Thu Jan 3, 2013.

While the family of the 3-year-old boy who was fatally shot the evening of July 5 has been left heartbroken, the investigation surrounding the cause of his death plods along under a cloud of confidentiality.

Preston Orlando, the son of a San Jose Police officer, was in an upstairs bedroom at his home on Kentwood Court around 5 p.m. when he was accidentally shot with a .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol, according to Gilroy police reports. Police and medics arrived on scene quickly, but were unable to treat his injuries. The toddler died en route to the hospital, said Police Sgt. Chad Gallacinao.

The gun used in the shooting was not a San Jose Police Department issued firearm, although police have declined to reveal the owner.

The gun was fired while the Orlando home was filled with adults and several preteen children, but it is not clear if anyone was in the bedroom with Preston at the time. Gallacinao did say, however, that without confirming where the pre-teen children were located during the incident, that they were not directly involved in the shooting.

Since the shooting, which police have called a “terrible accident,” several agencies, including Gilroy Police Detectives, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office and the Santa Clara County Medical Examiner’s Office have teamed to conduct a “full on”  investigation into the circumstances of the shooting, according to Gallacinao.

The investigation of the home concluded some time in the hours past midnight on July 6, but the investigation of the incident has only just begun.

“A lot of work has been done, and a lot more work remains,” Gallacinao said.

Questions hang in the air regarding the culpability of Preston’s parents – who are currently facing police interviews in the midst of unbelievable grieving - but police remain tight-lipped about details.

“This is an extremely sensitive case, and we won’t be revealing details for some time,” Gallacinao said.

Although there are no specific laws in California that stipulate how guns are to be stored in the home, state law does say that a person who leaves a firearm in a place accessible to children under 18 can be held liable and charged with a misdemeanor or felony if a child accesses the gun and causes injury or death to themselves or others, according to Justin Phillips, analyst for the California Bureau of Firearms.

Gallacinao did not say whether or not Preston’s father, Brandon Orlando, will face charges, but did say that a major part of the investigation will be on how the guns were stored – and despite Orlando being a fellow police officer, Gallacinao said the investigation will be “thorough” and “objective.”

“I will say however, that we believe this to be an accident. A terrible, horrific accident,” he said.

It’s uncommon in California for a child to die from an accidental gunshot. Statewide, between the years 2006 and 2010, six children younger than 5 years old were killed from accidental shootings, according to Ralph Montano, spokesman for the California Department of Public Health.

The investigation report will be sent to the District Attorney’s office when the GPD is ready, and the case will likely be sent to the homicide unit and examined for any criminal culpability – but that might not be for several weeks, Gallacinao said.

While the investigation might be objective, the emotional response from fellow officers certainly is not. Jason Dwyer, San Jose Police Sgt. and spokesman, said the night of the shooting, more than two dozen officers arrived at the hospital to support Orlando, including San Jose Police Chief Chris Moore, San Jose Chaplain David Bridgen and Gilroy Police Chaplain Malcolm MacPhail.

“You could feel it in the air how much the officers were hurting for their fellow officer,” Dwyer said.

When a tragedy as serious as this strikes an officer, Dwyer said the department grieves together.

“We have worked through hard situations before as a family, and we’ll do it this time as well,” he said.

Departmental grief counseling is available not only to Orlando, but to any other officer who is having a hard time processing the shooting, Dwyer said.

“We encourage our officers to talk about how they are feeling about this,” he said. “This is a tragic time, and we all need to keep an eye on each other through it.”

By mid-morning on Friday, July 6, Kentwood Court was quiet and empty, as summer song birds chirped away and the American flags in front of homes flapped in the breeze. Several cars were parked outside the Orlando’s blind-drawn home. Most neighbors declined to comment about the shooting, except that they were “shocked” and “horrified” for the loss of the young boy’s life.

“When I first heard the sirens, I immediately thought something had happened to an older person,” said 77-year-old Wanda Orsetti, who characterized the neighborhood as being “mostly seniors” and retired people. “So when I learned that it was a little boy, I was devastated.”

Orsetti said she did not know the family well, but still was shaken up about the shooting.

“What can I say to them at this time?” she said. “I could say I’m sorry but that’s not going to help. What a terrible tragedy for that family.”

MacPhail, Gilroy police chaplain who was with the family at the hospital the night of the shooting, and pastor at New Hope Community Church, said he's never dealt with a situation of this gravitas before.

“I encourage the community to step up with thoughts and prayers to help them go through this,” he said.

For those who may not pray often, MacPhail said these prayers need not be complicated - simple prayers uttered from people all over Gilroy for comfort, strength, peace and courage to face the future could be the very thing that pulls the family though this time.

Anyone with information regarding this incident is urged to contact the Gilroy Police Department at (408) 846-0350. Parties wishing to remain anonymous may call We-Tip at 1-800-782-7463 (800-78-Crime).

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