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Man charged in son's shooting death

Police say he left the gun within reach of his 3-year-old son, who fired it. The charge is culpable negligence.

By TAMARA LUSH, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 7, 2003

TAMPA -- Late in October, 3-year-old Quinn Burchfield went into his parents' bedroom and took his father's gun out of a pair of jeans lying on a dresser.

Quinn fired the gun once; the bullet hit his neck. Within days, he died.

Monday, Tampa detectives charged Steven Burchfield, Quinn's father, with culpable negligence. The charge is a third-degree felony that could put Burchfield in prison for five years if he is convicted.

The accident happened Oct. 28 at the family's home on W Bay Avenue. The boy was watching television with his two sisters in his parents' bedroom as his parents sat in the kitchen.

The boy found the gun and started playing with it. His sisters couldn't get to him before he pulled the trigger, police said.

Burchfield had a concealed-weapons permit, which allowed him to have the .32-caliber weapon, authorities said.

"He just forgot to take it out of his pants pocket," said Tampa police spokesman Katie Hughes.

Quinn was taken to Tampa General Hospital, where he died Nov. 2.

The fact that Burchfield left the gun within arm's reach of a child resulted in the culpable negligence charge, Hughes said.

Tampa police issued a warrant for Burchfield's arrest Thursday, and he was taken into custody in Columbia, S.C., where he was visiting relatives. Burchfield waived extradition to Florida during a hearing Monday.

Burchfield was fined and sentenced to a year of probation on a charge of driving under the influence in South Carolina in 1988. He received a suspended sentence on a charge of possession of contraband in the same year.

According to state records, Burchfield's concealed-weapons permit is valid through Jan. 16, 2007. But in August 2000, the state Division of Licensing denied applications from Burchfield to become a security officer and to carry a gun while working.

State officials said the application was denied because of his criminal record. But the same record didn't preclude him from having a concealed-weapons permit. Under Florida law, a person can be ineligible for a concealed-weapons permit if he has been convicted of a felony, multiple violent charges, or had two or more DUI convictions in a three-year period before applying for the permit.

Hughes said Burchfield recently worked at Publix but was unemployed at the time of the accident.

-- Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report.

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