Gun that killed boy, 3, was left on closet floor

Child shot self; Dundee man charged

8/20/2013
BY VANESSA McCRAY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Joshua Michael Greenhill, left, leaves the courtroom after he is arraigned on a high misdemeanor firearms charge in Monroe County 1st District Court. Dundee police Chief David Uhl, right, said Monday that more charges could be filed.
Joshua Michael Greenhill, left, leaves the courtroom after he is arraigned on a high misdemeanor firearms charge in Monroe County 1st District Court. Dundee police Chief David Uhl, right, said Monday that more charges could be filed.

MONROE — Joshua Michael Greenhill, who police said left on a closet floor the loaded gun with which a 3-year-old boy fatally shot himself, was released from jail Monday on a high misdemeanor firearms charge.

Police and Monroe County Assistant Prosecutor Jack Simms said Mr. Greenhill could face a more serious charge related to the shooting death Sunday of Damon Holbrook.

The boy shot himself in the head minutes after Mr. Greenhill returned home from work and stashed a 40-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun, placed in a plastic case, on a bedroom closet floor in a Dundee house where the defendant lives with a friend, who is the victim’s father, police said. The closet and the bedroom doors were unlocked.

Damon Holbrook
Damon Holbrook

“As you can imagine, they’re just distraught,” Dundee Police Chief David Uhl said of the boy’s family. “They can’t imagine what’s going on.”

Mr. Greenhill, 30, was charged with careless discharge of a firearm causing injury or death, which carries a maximum penalty of up to two years in prison or $2,000. He asked Judge Terrence Bronson of Monroe County 1st District Court for a court-appointed attorney and answered “yes” when the judge asked if he was pleading not guilty.

The defendant, who police said has no criminal history and has a concealed-pistol license, was released from jail on his own recognizance. As a condition of his release, he must surrender his pistol license identification card, not possess a firearm, and refrain from using or possessing alcohol or controlled substances.

Chief Uhl said an investigation continues and authorities “are working on a more serious charge,” which could come within a week.

GUN SAFETY IN THE HOME

1. Guns in the home should be stored in a gun safe, lock box, or a locked drawer or cabinet

2. All guns stored in the home should have a gun lock or trigger lock in place

3. Guns should be stored unloaded, and the ammunition locked in a separate storage container

4. Repeatedly stress to children to never handle a gun without adult supervision

5. Toy guns should be brightly colored and not closely resemble actual firearms

6. Pellet guns, BB guns and air rifles should be treated the same as firearms

Also consider that:

1. Most children can't tell the difference between a realistic looking toy gun and a real gun

2. A child's natural curiosity will often lead him or her to pick up a gun found, and pull the trigger

3. Children should be educated in gun safety, even if there are no guns in the home

4. Some communities have gun lock and trigger lock distribution programs

Source: Safekids.org.

Mr. Simms said the prosecutor’s office wants more information from police.

“We will consider whether or not a higher charge is appropriate or not,” Mr. Simms said.

Mr. Greenhill, who works at the Quality Inn in Dundee, returned to his residence at 301 Rawson St. after work Sunday afternoon. The defendant lives there with his wife, her 7-year-old son, and Brian Holbrook, the victim’s father, police said.

The defendant told police he carries a gun frequently. He took the gun from its holster, put it in an unsecured plastic case, and placed it on the closet floor. Present at the house were the three adults and three children, including Damon’s 10 and 6-year-old siblings, police said.

The gun was fired within 5 minutes of Mr. Greenhill leaving it on the floor. He called 911. The boy was pronounced dead about 5 p.m. Sunday in St. Joseph Hospital, Ann Arbor.

The bullet went through a ceiling and lodged in the floor of the house’s upper level, indicating the child was bent over when the gun fired, Chief Uhl said. He estimated it takes about five pounds of pressure to pull the trigger.

No one answered the door at the house on Monday.

In a Facebook post, Brian Holbrook said he lost his 3-year-old son to a gun accident.

“We’re all hoping to wake up from this nightmare, though we know that it is now a living nightmare. My baby boy is gone, and I will never get to hold him again. I will miss him terribly,” he wrote.

He stated he still supports the Second Amendment of the Constitution, but he urged people to lock up guns and put them out of reach.

“My boy would still be here if it was put away like it should have been,” he wrote.

The shooting illustrates why gun owners should be diligent and keep weapons locked away, Chief Uhl said.

“This could have been avoided,” he said. “We wouldn’t be here right now.”

For the last several months, Gary Gossard of Ida, Mich., has been fixing up an unoccupied house next door to the shooting scene. He recalled seeing children playing outside the home and several adults. He wasn’t working the day of the shooting but said everything at the house seemed “normal.”

“I haven’t heard any problems,” he said.

Brian Holbrook filed for divorce from Jessica Holbrook in April, according to Monroe County court records.

She does not live at the home and was not present at the time of the shooting, police said. Chief Uhl said he does not know who has custody of the couple’s children. He said Children’s Protective Services has been involved since the shooting.

A pretrial hearing in Mr. Greenhill’s case is scheduled for Sept. 4.

Contact Vanessa McCray at: vmccray@theblade.com or 419-724-6056, or on Twitter @vanmccray.