Boy found gun in closet, according to reports |

Boy found gun in closet, according to reports

Matt Stensland
Routt County Sheriff's Office officials investigate at a home in the Stagecoach area where a Steamboat Springs police officer's 3-year-old son was killed after a gun accidentally went off.
Matt Stensland

— Reports released Monday by the Routt County Sheriff’s Office detail how 3-year-old Gavin Stiles got access to his father’s gun and fatally shot himself.

On the morning of July 14, Michael Stiles, Gavin’s father and a Steamboat Springs police officer, was building a deck outside his home in the Stagecoach area with two construction workers.

Gavin’s mother, Joni Stiles, was upstairs and had just put Gavin’s 6-month-old brother in the den and was talking to her father on the phone when she heard a loud “bang.”

Joni Stiles thought something had fallen in the den, and she went to check on the 6-month-old. After seeing he was fine, Joni Stiles ran downstairs and saw Gavin on the floor of the master bedroom.

Joni Stiles told deputies that she “immediately knew.” She picked up Gavin and brought him to his father and yelled that Gavin had shot himself.

Gavin was conscious, and Michael Stiles applied direct pressure to the wound. A construction worker, who is a trained emergency medical technician, rushed Gavin and Michael Stiles toward Steamboat, where they met an ambulance near the entrance to Lake Catamount.

Before going to the hospital, Joni Stiles went back in the master bedroom. She saw a gun and a bag on the floor.

At the hospital, deputies interviewed Michael Stiles. He said all the guns in the house had been “put up.”

“If he was in my room, he climbed up in the closet and pulled my bag down,” Michael Stiles told investigators.

He said the bag contained items he needed to respond to an emergency, including a .45-caliber, semi-automatic Glock issued to him by the police department.

Michael Stiles guessed that Gavin could have climbed a dresser or another piece of furniture to access the bag.

Steamboat Police Chief Cory Christensen on Tuesday said it was not unusual for police officers to keep their guns loaded when they are stored.

On Thursday, members of a grand jury that met in secret to review the case decided not to indict Joni or Michael Stiles.

With the criminal process now complete, a sergeant at the police department has been assigned to determine if any policies were violated.

Michael Stiles requested a six-month, unpaid leave of absence after the shooting.

The police department’s policy manual specifically addresses how officers should store their firearms at home. It states: “Members shall ensure that all firearms and ammunition are locked and secured while in their homes, vehicles or any other area under their control, and in a manner that will keep them inaccessible to children and others who should not have access.”

Christensen said that is a standard policy, and he thinks it is clear.

“I don’t think I can think of a better way of saying that,” Christensen said.

He said the policy has been discussed at length with all the officers at the department.

“A sensitive topic but important for us to talk about,” Christensen said.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland

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