PRESCOTT VALLEY, Arizona -- A Tampa-area grandmother is urging people to keep firearms safely away from children after her four-year-old grandson picked up a gun and accidentally fired it, killing his father in Arizona last week.
"When I Googled this story on my son, I couldn't even count the number of pages," says Marilyn Andreatta about her son, 35-year-old Justin Thomas. "It was infinite -- children shooting fathers, children shooting other children, children picking up a gun out of curiosity."
Thomas was living in Phoenix and had taken his son for a surprise visit to a former roommate's house about an hour and a half away.
Almost immediately, on a TV stand, police say the boy found the roommate's gun, something he may have thought was a toy.
"It was loaded," Andreatta told 10 News. "It was sitting out in the living room and he just didn't think to put it away when my grandson entered the house."
One shot fired, striking and killing Thomas, an Army special forces veteran who served in Iraq.
"We're devastated for the loss of my son who was a very caring, very loving, excellent father. He loved his kids more than anything in the world," recalls Andreatta. "And we're devastated for what his son is going to have to go through when he gets older."
She says her grandson will be starting counseling immediately. It's a tragedy that Joe Krawtshenko, owner of Aegis Tactical in Lakewood Ranch, says he reads about far too often.
"Every day, I'm seeing something out there, some kind of accidental discharge," he says. "To me, it's almost not an accident at that point. It's just neglect."
To prevent that, Krawtshenko urges people to unload their guns, take them apart and store the parts across different areas of the house, put guns in a safe, or use the lock that comes with the gun.
It's advice Andreatta hopes will save other families from the same grief Thomas' family and friends are now facing.
"I believe it's okay to have guns in the home for your personal protection," she says, "But if a child enters your home, go straight to that weapon and secure it."
Thomas' funeral will take place on Friday afternoon in Arizona. A Facebook memorial page has been started in his honor.