Officer shot to death by his own child

Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A rookie police officer was shot to death by his 3-year-old son in front of his pregnant wife after the boy grabbed his father’s gun off the kitchen table.

Joshua Haffner, 22, was pronounced dead Friday after several hours of surgery.

The shooting happened shortly after the Nashville officer returned from work late Thursday to his home in Smyrna.

"He was taking off his duty equipment and laid his gun on the kitchen table. Apparently, while he had his back turned and was talking to his wife, their 3-year-old picked the gun up and shot him," said Smyrna police Sgt. Ken Hampton.

Haffner was shot once in the upper back with the Glock .40-caliber semiautomatic pistol, Hampton said.

He had graduated from Nashville’s police academy Nov. 1 and was undergoing field training. His wife, Amy, is eight months pregnant.

"This is something he always talked about, being a police officer," Hampton said.

Nashville police spokesman Don Aaron said the shooting was a tragic accident that happened in a split second.

"This officer had just gotten home. He was getting settled, and in the process took the pistol out of the holster and put it on the table. He did not leave the gun unattended; there were two adults in the kitchen," Aaron said.

Department regulations say weapons should at all times be "out of reach of children in a secure manner," but they do not require that guns and ammunition be kept separate, Aaron said.

When officers-in-training get their weapons, they also take a safety course on guns in the home and what to teach family members, said Lt. Mike Hagar, operations and academics commander at the Nashville police academy.

Carol Minks, who manages the Village Lake Townhomes where the Haffners live, said the couple had recently won a $250 prize for having the best Christmas decorations on their patio. She said Haffner was going to become the complex courtesy officer, handling noise complaints and locked-out tenants in exchange for reduced rent.

"He was a really nice guy," Minks said. "I’m just so sorry for his wife and son."

Copyright ©2002 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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