Fatal shooting of 13-year-old boy in Utah church parking lot a ‘tragic accident,’ police say

A 15-year-old boy fatally shot his 13-year-old friend in what police believe was a “tragic accident” in the parking lot of a Utah church over the weekend.

The shooting happened around 1:45 a.m. Saturday, shortly after the teens sneaked out of their homes to meet outside a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints chapel in West Jordan, a suburb of Salt Lake City, authorities said.

As the boys sat in a car with a handgun that one of them brought to the scene, the older teen discharged the weapon, striking the victim at least once, according to police. Investigators believe the shooter did not know the gun was loaded, Police Lt. Richard Bell said at a news conference live-streamed by local news station KUTV.

“It truly was, we believe, a tragic accident,” he told reporters, noting that the 15-year-old was “distraught” and “wanted to help his friend” when he called 911 to report the shooting.

Bell did not say who brought the weapon or how many shots were fired. But police did take the older boy into custody and charged him with manslaughter as they determined he had “some criminal culpability,” Bell said.

The victim was pronounced dead at the scene.

No other details have been released because of the sensitive nature of the case, Bell said.

“What this was earlier this morning was a series of, frankly, poor decisions made by some adolescents that two families are now going to have to deal with for the rest of their lives,” he said.