Sunday, June 17, 2018
Public safety

Hillsborough deputies: Man accidentally shoots, kills himself in Lithia

LITHIA — His parents were out of town, and 19-year-old Taylor McKenna had two friends over for a marathon night of video games.

The young men played Xbox games early into the morning. They also looked at a handgun that one of McKenna's friends had brought. It was unloaded.

The men went back to their video games.

Deputies say it appears McKenna didn't know that, later, the friend who had brought the gun went into a nearby room and reloaded it. He left it in that room, and at about 2 a.m., McKenna walked into the room, and, according to deputies, picked up the gun and fired a round.

The bullet hit McKenna in the head. He died at the scene.

Deputies believe McKenna thought the gun was unloaded. It doesn't appear he wanted to harm himself, said sheriff's spokesman Larry McKinnon.

McKenna graduated from Newsome High School last year and lived with his parents in their ranch-style Lithia home, surrounded by goats and geese. He does not have a criminal record.

Family gathered at the house, at 10139 Bryant Road, on Thursday declined to comment.

Deputies are still investigating and haven't released the two friends' names. The Hillsborough County Medical Examiner's Office is conducting an autopsy.

McKinnon said there was no evidence the young men were drinking or were on drugs.

"It was just a bunch of young guys playing Xbox," he said.

McKenna's is the second accidental gun death in Hillsborough County this year.

Demarcus Smart, 17, accidentally shot himself in January while hanging out with friends in an abandoned East Tampa house, just a few doors down from where he lived with his mother.

And in St. Petersburg, 16-year-old Anas Jaber was hospitalized in March after his 9-year-old cousin, who has Down syndrome, accidentally shot him in the neck, police said.

In McKenna's case, deputies say the young man broke both tenants of firearm safety.

"You always assume a gun is loaded, until checked," McKinnon said. "And you don't point a gun at yourself or anyone else."

He urged parents to teach their children gun safety — even if they don't own firearms.

"They still might get exposed to guns," he said, "and the mishandling of guns happens a lot."

News researcher John Martin and staff writer Danny Valentine contributed to this report. Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3433.

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