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Trio had routine fun with weapons

The two teenagers liked to point guns at each other for fun.

On Monday night, Nathan Oakley, 17, had a 9mm handgun, cocked and loaded. His 18-year-old roommate, a childhood buddy, had a rifle.

But this time, Oakley accidentally fired his handgun, police said, and killed his friend with a shot to the face. Oakley ran to a nearby convenience store and called for help.

St. Petersburg police arrested Oakley on charges of negligent manslaughter; he was taken to the Juvenile Assessment Center. On Tuesday, they arrested Roger J. Fontecchio, 21, another roommate, on charges of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Fontecchio owned the handgun that fired the deadly shot, police said.

"I told them a hundred . . . times, don't point guns at each other," Fontecchio said in an interview at the small beige home at 2721 39th Ave. N, just after he made $500 bail. "It's just terrible and sad."

Because police officers had not yet notified the 18-year-old's relatives, they did not release his name.

It was the second accidental shooting involving minors in St. Petersburg this month. On Feb. 7, a 7-year-old shot his 5-year-old brother with a .38-caliber revolver that he found under a sofa. The victim was treated at All Children's Hospital and released. Their 16-year-old brother was charged with illegally having the gun and leaving it out.

As he stood on his front porch Tuesday, Fontecchio said he did Oakley and his friend a favor by taking them in this fall. According to an arrest report, they moved into a home where guns were easy to find.

Sometimes, Fontecchio would fire handguns inside his apartment at phone books and clay, police wrote. Once, Oakley did the same. Police also said Fontecchio left "numerous" handguns and rifles around the residence "unsecured and loaded."

Fontecchio said he was saddened by the loss of his roommate, but didn't feel responsible for having loaded guns around the house. He said Oakley had grown up with guns and should have known better.

"He knew gun safety, he just didn't practice it," Fontecchio said. He said he even threatened to beat them up if they didn't stop pointing guns at each other.

Oakley and his friend didn't work or go to school, Fontecchio said. Instead, they sat around the house and kept playing with guns while he went to work at a store that sells window blinds.

Sgt. Michael Puetz, who supervises the St. Petersburg Police Department homicide unit, said Oakley and the 18-year-old had been friends since grade school. They grew up on Florida's east coast, around Melbourne, and moved in with Fontecchio and another roommate in the fall.

Puetz said the 18-year-old victim had been a runaway. Last year, St. Petersburg police picked him up and took him for a stay at the Juvenile Assessment Center.

Fontecchio said the 18-year-old was "a really good kid" who was generous with his roommates and often picked up the bill when they went out for dinner.

Oakley, on the other hand, would become sullen at times, Fontecchio said. "He would just get into moods," he said.

On Monday night, however, Oakley told police, it was the 18-year-old who pointed the rifle at him first. He said he then reached for the 9mm handgun and pointed it at his friend.

Puetz said the handgun, which can fire with a light touch of the trigger, was cocked and loaded. Oakley accidentally fired, he told police.

Neighbors told police they heard a loud pop. A neighbor said he heard Oakley scream, "Oh, my God."

Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. Abhi Raghunathan can be reached at araghunathan@sppimes.com or 893-8472.

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