Monday, August 20, 2018
Public safety

Sarasota father who accidentally shot his son: 'The gun didn't kill my boy. I did.’

The small pistol was perfect for training, the father said.

It unofficially belonged to Clayton Brumby's 12-year-old daughter, but he was up next to fire the .22 semiautomatic Ruger SR22 at the shooting range at High Noon Guns in Sarasota on Sunday.

His 14-year-old son, Stephen, patiently sat in the back of the lane next to his sister, awaiting his turn. Stephen didn't like smaller guns anyway. The teenager preferred bigger ones, like his dad's 9mm Glock.

When Clayton Brumby fired his last shot, he said a smoking hot casing flew out of the pistol and went down the back of his shirt. Both arms flailed up in the air, he said, his finger still on the trigger. The gun fired.

"Dad, Stephen's been shot," the father heard his 24-year-old son shriek.

The father said the bullet he fired ricocheted off the ceiling and struck the 14-year-old's jugular vein. The teen was rushed to Sarasota Memorial Hospital, where deputies said he was later pronounced dead.

"The gun didn't kill my boy," the 64-year-old father of seven said Monday. "I did."

A morning full of fishing and tennis wasn't enough to exhaust the outdoorsy Brumby family. They had time to spare before planning to dance the humid July night away at a friend's house, so four of the Brumbys finished their lunch and headed 10 minutes south of their home to the gun range at 4583 Bee Ridge Road, where they were members.

Clayton Brumby said he's been shooting for three years now. Stephen took up shooting about 18 months ago. In recent months, the family started going to High Noon Guns to shoot on the weekends.

"(Stephen) was a natural," the father said. "He would shoot a .45. He would shoot anything."

The account the father gave of the shooting differed from the one given by the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office. Deputies offered this version of events based on witness statements and after reviewing video footage:

Clayton Brumby was in the last shooting lane, with a solid wall to his right side. When he fired, the spent shell casing struck the wall and bounced into the back of his shirt.

The father tried to remove the casing with his right hand, deputies said, which held the weapon. "While doing so, he inadvertently pointed the firearm directly behind him and accidently fired," according to the Sheriff's Office. That's when the 14-year-old was struck.

No one else was injured. The Sheriff's Office called the incident an "accidental shooting" and said that as of Monday there were no charges pending against the father. The investigation is continuing.

When asked about the father's version of events, Sarasota sheriff's spokeswoman Kaitlyn Johnston said the agency's understanding of events remains the same but "things are fluid, so that could change."

High Noon Guns bills itself as "a safer, greener, quieter, cooler gun range" on its website. An employee reached Monday said the gun range reopened on Sunday afternoon. He could not comment further.

Stephen had many talents, his father said. Born the fourth of seven homeschooled children, the 14-year-old could recall the details of a story his mother read to him at the drop of a hat — a trick envied by his younger siblings.

His older siblings' ears couldn't pick up the musical notes that Stephen could. He played the ukulele and the piano and was learning to master the guitar and drums for the music group he played in at the nondenominational Remnant Church.

On the GoFundMe.com page set up by the family, Stephen was described as "a meteor that couldn't be contained" who loved fishing, tennis music, archery and knife throwing.

"We have some bright children in this family," Clayton Brumby said, "but none were brighter than he was."

Family and friends came to the Brumby home in droves to comfort the father, who said he blames himself for what happened.

Clayton Brumby said he preaches gun safety, trained his kids and always goes through the rules.

"That's why yesterday was so stupid and freaky on me because the gun is supposed to be pointed down range as all times," he said. "My first thought was 'That was pretty stupid of me. I should've put the gun down.' "

Contact Colleen Wright at [email protected] or (727) 893-8643. Follow @Colleen_Wright on Twitter.

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