NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — A man in Virginia has been charged with murder in the shooting death of his 4-year-old son, although police released few details Thursday and a family friend suggested the boy may have accidentally shot himself.
Paramedics responded Wednesday night to find Rayvon A. Messer Jr. outside a home in the Ocean View neighborhood of Norfolk, police said. The boy died from the gunshot wound shortly after being rushed to a hospital.
His father, Rayvon A. Messer, 26, faces a count of second-degree murder as well as using a firearm in the commission of a felony. Messer is being held without bail, police said.
A family friend told The Associated Press on Thursday that the boy accidentally shot himself when his father briefly left the house.
"Rayvon took the trash out and left the gun inside on the couch," said Tommy Spencer, 21, of Norfolk. "His son got a hold of it and shot himself."
Spencer said Messer is his sister's boyfriend. He said she has a son with Messer and is close to Rayvon Jr.
"She's not good," Spencer said. "Junior was pretty much like a son to her."
Spencer said his sister is working on hiring a lawyer for Messer.
Desmond Sessoms, Messer's stepfather, told The Virginian-Pilot (http://bit.ly/2pHYxQV) that all seemed well Wednesday afternoon when he dropped Rayvon Jr. off to his father after babysitting the boy.
"I know his father loved him," he told the newspaper. "I can't see him doing anything like that."
Later in the conversation, the Pilot quoted Sessoms as saying, "I don't know if he did it or not."
Sessoms said Rayvon Jr.'s mother was the boy's primary caregiver. He said she and Rayvon's father worked well together raising their son.
In 2014, Messer pleaded guilty to reckless handling of a firearm after he shot into a building, the Pilot reported.
This story has been updated to correct that Norfolk police now say the child was 4 years old, not 3 years old.