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"Tragic accident:" Six-year-old fatally shoots father

A six-year-old boy accidentally shot and killed his own father Sunday night in Bartholomew County.
Deputies found James Lonaker in his home with a gunshot wound to his upper body.

A six-year-old boy accidentally shot his own father Sunday night in Bartholomew County. The man later died from his injuries.

Sheriff's deputies were called to investigate a report of a person shot in the 200 block of Clinton Street, Hartsville around 9:15 p.m. Sunday. Deputies found James E. Lonaker Sr., 62, with a gunshot wound to his upper body. He was taken to Methodist Hospital by helicopter but died en route.

Investigators say Lonaker's son accidentally shot his father when he picked up an unsecured .38-caliber revolver and fired a shot that struck Lonaker.

Lonaker was sitting at his desk and did not see the child pick up the handgun, which belonged to Lonaker. Lonaker's wife and one-year old infant child were also in the house but were not injured.

"At the heart of all of this, I have...we have a six-year-old little brother that needs nothing but love and understanding in what was truly a huge accident," said Lonaker's daughter, Juli.

News about the accidental shooting spread fast in Hartsville, a town of only 381 people where you can see the water tower from almost anywhere in town.

Bartholomew County Sheriff Matt Myers is warning all residents to make certain that firearms in their homes are not accessible to anyone, especially children. 

"Many firearms accidents in the home can be prevented simply by making sure that firearms are kept unloaded and safely stored, with ammunition secured in a separate location," said Sheriff Myers, who called it a tragic accident.  "Please keep your guns in a secure location out of reach of children."

"This is a tragedy that is told and retold all across the country and a tragedy that is easily avoided. I urge every responsible gun owner and parent to take this tragedy to heart," he said.

As Lonaker's family remembers him, they're hoping other gun owners can learn from their tragedy.

"He was a dad that loved his children with all he had," Juli said.

Juli and her older brother, James Lonaker Jr. say their dad was someone who had enough love for everyone.

"God broke the mold when he made him. He loved to laugh, loved to cut up," Lonaker said.

"I got extended family, different ethnic backgrounds, I got people who are a part of my life who are just as much family as others are," James Lonaker Jr. said.

Lonaker's daughter not only shared her favorite photo of her father, but also this advice about how to keep your family from the pain and sorrow now they're experiencing right now.

"My dad just didn't do the responsible thing and, unfortunately, led to an untimely death for him," Juli said.

Child Protective Services were notified.

Juli and James say they have no idea of the long term affects the shooting will have on their little brother, but promise to do what it takes to help him cope with the accidental shooting.