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Grandfather of toddler who shot himself: 'Guns and kids don't mix'

EAST LAKE — Robert Edgar was playing catch with his 16-year-old son when he heard the scream.

He rushed toward the source of the commotion: Across the street, Kevin Ahles had just opened the driver's door of a Nissan Altima and lifted his 2-year-old son, limp and unconscious, into his arms.

The father yelled his son's name again and again. His mother, Christina Nigro, pulled up his shirt, revealing blood on Kaleb's tiny chest.

Nigro performed CPR as Ahles called 911. They used a jacket to press on the wound to stop the bleeding, Edgar said.

As paramedics rushed Kaleb away, Ahles collapsed.

"He couldn't speak. He couldn't function. . . . That poor father is going to be in hell forever," Edgar said. "To get on a witch hunt would be the wrong thing to do."

Although parents can be criminally charged in Florida if their child is hurt with their loaded firearm, Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said Thursday that because the gun was stowed away in the car, the law doesn't apply in this incident to Ahles, a concealed weapons permit holder with a .380-caliber handgun.

"I don't think that it rises to the level of criminal scrutiny," Gualtieri said. "A series of events tragically lined up the way they did for this to happen."

Ahles' father, Kevin Ahles, said his son is well schooled in the rules of gun safety and had taken a course.

"I'm not blaming my son. Guns and kids don't mix," said Ahles, 57, a retired Tampa police detective. "He loves his kids. It's just a tragic accident, although things could have been safer to prevent it."

The younger Ahles, 23, is a restaurant manager at Gulf View Square Mall's Villa Fresh Italian Kitchen, where he works long, late hours, his father said.

His son and Nigro, also 23, were high school sweethearts. They had a rocky relationship recently, but "things were looking up," the elder Ahles said.

The couple, who also have a 4-year-old son, were moving into the younger Ahles' apartment and planned to move into a Brooksville house after his lease ended.

"They were just approved for a home," the senior Ahles said. "Now they're going to be planning for a funeral."

On Wednesday afternoon, they were packing up things at a house on Misty Hollow Court in East Lake, where Nigro had been staying.

Nigro was at the trunk of the family's Nissan Altima while Ahles played with a toy with his older son. Kaleb, a stocky brown-haired boy, was inside the car, playing with the radio and the windshield wipers.

Ahles told his family it was time to go. One minute later, they heard a gunshot, Gualtieri said.

Kaleb was rushed to Medical Center of Trinity, where he died. Ahles was so distraught, Gualtieri said, that he was also hospitalized.

A Florida law passed in 1989 states that a parent of children who hurt themselves or others with their gun can be criminally charged unless the gun was stored in a securely locked box or in a place that a person would reasonably believe to be secure.

Another law states that it is legal for gun owners to keep their weapons in a vehicle's glove box or center compartment.

Gualtieri said Ahles abided by both laws. Ahles told investigators he usually kept his gun on him, but had placed it in either the glove box or center compartment while moving Wednesday.

"I don't think the statute applies," Gualtieri said. "There is nobody in the justice system that can punish these parents and hold them more accountable than what they will endure themselves for the rest of their lives."

On Thursday morning, Kaleb's older brother played inside his grandfather's home as the family struggled to find the words to tell him his little brother was gone.

"He thought he was asleep," the elder Ahles said. "This is a parent's and grandparent's worst nightmare."

Times staff researchers John Martin and Carolyn Edds, as well as staff writers Curtis Krueger and Claire McNeill, contributed to this report. Contact Laura C. Morel at or (727)445-4157. Follow @lauracmorel.