16-year-old dies after boys find handgun

By THOMAS LAKE, Times Staff Writer
Published August 24, 2007

MOON LAKE - Two boys were alone in a house Wednesday afternoon. They were playing in a bedroom. And they found a loaded 9mm handgun.

Exactly what happened next is unclear. Authorities say they can't be sure why the gun went off in the hands of a 16-year-old boy. But it did, striking that boy in the head.

The other boy, who is 11, ran to a neighbor's house for help.

Rescuers flew the wounded boy to St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa.

His name was Joseph Coonradt. He was pronounced dead at 10:20 p.m. Wednesday.

According to sheriff's spokesman Doug Tobin, Joseph had been reported as a runaway nearly half a dozen times since July. His mother had tried to get him help, but she said a judge denied her request to have authorities commit him to an institution.

Joseph was in a house just up the street from his home when he found the gun.

"We're trying to figure out whose gun it is," Tobin said. "There could be a child neglect issue."

Was the shooting an accident?

"We may never know exactly what was going through Joseph's mind," Tobin said.