Parents, uncle charged after 4-year-old accidentally shot by sister in Gaston County, police say

GASTONIA, N.C. — Three adults, including his parents, have been charged in the shooting death of a 4-year-old boy at a mobile home near Gastonia Tuesday afternoon, police said.

It happened shortly after 4:30 p.m. on Cindy Lane off Hickory Grove Road.

The boy and his sibling found the gun that had one round in the chamber on the coffee table, police said.

The sister fired the gun once, hitting the boy, who died at the scene, police said.

Police said children often can’t distinguish the difference between a toy gun and a real one. However, the adults in the house should have known better.

Savannah Leigh Brehm, 22, Hector Manuel Mendoza-Saucedo, 22, and Keith Deshawn Sturghill, 21 were charged with felony involuntary manslaughter, felony child abuse and the misdemeanor charge of storing a firearm in a manner accessible to a minor.

The boy, who authorities identified as Michael Mendoza, was the child of Brehm and Mendoza-Saucedo. Sturghill was his uncle, authorities said.

All three live at the home on Cindy Lane, investigators said.

Brehm said Michael was accidentally shot and killed by his sister, who is about the same age. Behm said she thought the gun was secured in their home.

Prosecutors said the gun belonged to Sturghill, the children’s uncle. Neither Mendoza-Saucedo nor Sturghill was home when the shooting happened Tuesday.

She pleaded to the judge on Wednesday.

“I have never been in trouble and this is the worst thing that’s ever happened to me and it’s going to scar me for life,” she said.

Brehm said she said Sturghill had said he would put the gun away before he left, but that the gun was left behind and the children found it.

“I heard the noise, and I ran in there as fast as I could,” she said.

Gabriel Brown lives across the street. He said he never heard the gunshot, but that the mother showed up on his porch beating on his door.

“That little kid had his whole life ahead of him,” Brown told Channel 9.

Sturghill was given a $400,000 bond, Brehm a $250,000 one and Mendoza-Saucedo, $250,000.

“Please make sure you do lock your guns up’

On Tuesday, police Capt. Bill Downey said crime scene technicians gathered evidence and spoke with possible witnesses.

“We will look into everything that’s going on at the house,” Downey said. “What’s happened in the past. Previous calls for service to see if there’s any type of history with the residence.”

Downey emphasized that families must secure their guns.

“Please make sure you do lock your guns up,” Downey said. “Gun locks are very cheap. They’re not hard to come by.”

Gaston County police offer gun locks for free at the department’s front desk.

Neighbor Sierra Stevens hopes more families practice gun safety.

“If you have guns, keep them up,” she said. “Keep them away from children, please.”

The investigation is ongoing.

Return to this story for updates.

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