MIDDLETOWN, Ohio – When he puled the trigger, Vince Dewitt didn't think the high-powered air rifle he was pointing at his girlfriend's 6-year-old son was loaded.
But now the child is recovering from emergency surgery after a pellet severed part of his intestines, and Dewitt is facing an assault charge.
"I'm mad because it was such a stupid thing," said the boy's mother, who was painting in the basement and saw it all unfold.
"From what we've been told after interviewing the family and the victim, this was a case where they were roughhousing in the basement of the house and the boyfriend was just playing around," Middletown Lt. Scott Reeve said.
The incident happened Easter Sunday afternoon while Dewitt, the mom and her two boys, 10 and 6, were together.
"His intention was to do something scary and scare the little kid and hope they would just run up stairs and leave him downstairs to work on the project they were working on in the basement," Reeve said.
"This gun makes a very loud pop when it goes off, even when there's nothing in it. Unfortunately there was a pellet in it."
Dewitt, 35, of Middletown, was very remorseful while talking with detectives, even breaking down in tears.
"The detectives that interviewed him said that he was just extremely emotional about what happened and he couldn't believe he had made such a serious error in judgment," Reeve said.
Nevertheless, police considered Dewitt's action reckless and charged him. Dewitt was released soon afterward.
That model air rifle is about four times more powerful than the Red Rifle BB gun of yesteryear. A pellet travels about 1,000 feet in a second.
A neighbor, Nancy Carnes, said the boy was learning to shoot the air gun.
"(He) loves to explore and loves to have a hands on experience outdoors, and so he was learning about how to use an air gun," Carnes said.
Reeve said adults need to understand the real danger these air rifles pose.
The boy is expected to be at Dayton Children's Hospital for another week.
His mom said her boyfriend is an emotional mess.