STRATFORD, N.J. (AP) — A police officer left his personal .357-caliber revolver loaded and unsecured on a shelf before his 8-year-old daughter fatally shot herself, prosecutors said Friday as they announced criminal charges against him.
Kenneth Righter, of Stratford, was charged with three counts of child endangerment as well as the disorderly persons offense of storage of firearms if minors may have access, Camden County Prosecutor Mary Eva Colalillo said.
The girl was found unresponsive on the afternoon of New Year's Eve. Her mother took her to the hospital, where she died from her wounds. Righter's other children were 14 and 17 at the time of the shooting.
Authorities haven't said how the shooting occurred but have concluded that only family members were in the house at the time of the shooting.
"This is a very, very difficult time for the family, and this doesn't make it any easier," said Dennis Wixted, an attorney representing Righter. "But we'll address it through the context of the system."
Wixted said Righter went to the prosecutor's office voluntarily Thursday. The case will now be presented to a grand jury.
Righter, 46, has been suspended without pay, the prosecutor's office said. The Stratford Police Department's most recent annual report lists him as an assistant firearms instructor, among other assignments.