The grandmother of a 6-year-old New Jersey boy who died after being shot in the head with a rifle by his 4-year-old neighbor tells NBC 4 New York she's angry at the family of the younger boy for not taking enough caution in keeping their guns locked up.
"I can't believe that they found 11 guns in that house," said Donna Elefante, the grandmother of Brandon Holt. "I mean, with three kids? Give me a break."
"There's no excuse for it," she said, adding the firearms should have been locked and protected with "keys and keys and keys."
Holt died at Jersey Shore Medical Center Tuesday night, about 24 hours after he was shot. The two boys had been playing outside the 4-year-old's Toms River home when Holt was shot from about 15 yards away. Holt was taken to the hospital with a bullet lodged in his brain.
It's not clear if the 4-year-old pulled the trigger or if the rifle accidentally discharged.
Elefante said the parents of the younger boy initially told Holt's family that the gun used in the shooting was a pellet gun and that their son had gotten the gun from under the bed in the master bedroom. They have not reached out to Holt's family since he died, Elefante said.
"He's my baby. He's my little baby... I took him everywhere," Elefante said, recalling a trip the two took to Disney World.
As the grieving grandmother put away the bicycle she had given him, a neighbor stopped by with balloons and a teddy bear as an expression of sympathy.
"I've been crying all day," said the neighbor, who gave her name as Joanne. "What are you going to do? There's no words, nothing."
At St. Joseph's Elementary School, where Holt was in the first grade, counselors were on hand to help the community deal with the trauma. A statement from the school described Holt as exuberant, energetic, happy and well-loved by all.
Police are continuing to investigate how the younger child obtained the rifle from his family's home on McCormick Drive. The boy's father was known to be an avid hunter, and his three children have names associated with hunting terms, according to neighbors and law enforcement sources.
The case is being turned over to the Atlantic County prosecutor's office because of a potential conflict of interest in the Ocean County prosecutor's office, law enforcement sources said.