OAKLAND — An 8-year-old boy found dead at a home on Church Street Tuesday was handling his father’s shotgun when the gun fired and he died of a gunshot wound to the head, officials said Wednesday.

Parker Stevens is the son of Wade and Sara Stevens and was going into the fourth grade at Williams Elementary School, according to a news release from Maine Department of Public Safety Spokesman Steve McCausland.

The Maine Medical Examiner’s Office said Parker Stevens died inside his home at 19 Church St. from a gunshot wound to the head. He had been handling his father’s 12-gauge shotgun inside a closet in his parents second floor bedroom when the gun fired.

Parker was found by his mother when she went to look for him around 6 p.m. She and her three other children were on the first floor of the house and did not hear the shot, McCausland said. Wade Stevens was at work and came home immediately.

McCausland said police are still investigating the case and information was not available on whether the death was accidental.

Detectives said the Mossberg shotgun had eight shotgun shells in the gun’s magazine tube and the boy apparently racked one of those shells into the chamber before he fired the gun.

No one answered the door Wednesday morning at 19 Church St. and yellow caution tape that had surrounded the house Tuesday night had been taken down.

In a Facebook post Wednesday morning, Sara Stevens said the family is asking for privacy but thanked those who have reached out to them with thoughts and prayers.

A phone call to a number listed as belonging to Wade Stevens was answered by a woman who identified herself as his mother and the boy’s grandmother, but did not give her name.

“My grandson is gone,” she said. “I don’t know if he wants to talk to you. I don’t know what happened.”

Julie Plante, who lives across the street from the Stevens, described the family as close friends.

“The mom is really amazing,” she said. “She cut my hair before for me. She’s just a sweetheart and she never meant anything like this to happen. It’s just heartbreaking.”

Plante said the family has four children and she often sees them playing in the driveway. Toys and bicycles filled the yard.

“I’ve heard different things,” Plante said. “People are saying he was playing with a gun and accidentally shot himself. That’s pretty much all I’ve heard.”

She wasn’t home when the death was reported, but said she came home to police on the street.

“It’s really, really sad,” Plante said. “You don’t expect stuff like that to happen.”

Wade Stevens is the manager of the meat market at Save-A-Lot in Waterville, according to one of his employees, Randy Frappier. He said he was with Stevens Tuesday at work when his wife called him and said their oldest son was shot.

“They’re very distraught,” Frappier said. “They’re devastated.”

Frappier said the family has been living in the house in Oakland for about two years. “The kids are nice, well-mannered,” he said. “I don’t know what exactly happened. They’re a nice family and the kids are well-liked.”

Along with the news release Wednesday, the Maine State Police also listed a number of safety suggestions for parents who possess a gun with children in the home. They include: guns should be unloaded and out of reach; ammunition and weapons should be stored separately; gun locks and gun safes can be used for safe storage; and trigger locks can be obtained from most police departments in Maine for free.

Debbie Frost, who lives two houses down in an apartment building at 23 Church St., said she came home around 7 p.m. Tuesday and saw police cars down the street but didn’t think anything of it.

She later came outside to water plants and saw the yellow caution tape. “It was like, ‘Oh my God, what happened?’” she said.

Frost said she did not know the Stevens well, but knew they had small children. She said her brother called her later Tuesday night to say he had heard on the news there was an accidental shooting.

Two other residents of the same building, Tina Makinson and John Parker, said they were both home around 6 p.m. Tuesday but didn’t hear anything.

Parker said another neighbor who is a firefighter knocked on his door around 6:30 and told him a boy had been shot two houses down.

“From what I heard it was accidental,” Parker said. “I could be wrong, but that’s what I believe. I’ve heard it on the news before — children get a hold of guns in the house and they get playing with them.”

First responders found the 8-year-old dead inside a home at 19 Church St. on Tuesday, said Steve McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety. (Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel)

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