LEBANON, Tenn. - A 4-year-old who picked up a gun at a family cookout killed the wife of a Wilson County sheriff's deputy, authorities said Monday.
Josephine G. Fanning, 48, died Saturday at her home about 7 miles south of Lebanon, according to the Wilson County Sheriff's Office.
The shooting occurred while her husband, Wilson County Deputy Daniel Fanning, 51, was with another relative looking at guns in a bedroom of their home, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
The 4-year-old and Josephine Fanning walked into the bedroom where a loaded weapon was on top of the bed, TBI spokeswoman Kristin Helm said. The boy picked up the gun and fired one round that struck Josephine Fanning. It was unclear Monday whether the child was a relative of the couple.
Sheriff Robert Bryan called the shooting a terrible accident and said the boy picked up the gun almost immediately after Fanning had placed it on the bed.
"Within seconds this small 4-year-old comes into the room, unbeknownst to the officer, and just picked up the gun and shot her," Bryan said. "Danny Fanning is going to have to live with it. Our prayers, our thoughts go out to him and the child."
Alcohol was present at the gathering, Helm said. Daniel Fanning was not on duty at the time of the shooting.
"He was a good officer who did his job," said former Wilson County Sheriff Terry Ashe, who hired Daniel Fanning.
The gun that the 4-year-old fired was Fanning's personal weapon and not his police gun, Helm and Bryan said. The deputy's weapons are normally stored in a safe.
No charges are pending, but the state is continuing to investigate, Helm said.
"(It) appears accidental at this time," Helm said.
Tennessee ranks among the highest in the nation for accidental firearm deaths, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Contributing: The Associated Press