Walla Walla child dies in shooting

Officials believe the shooting, in which a 5-year-old fired a rifle, hitting his brother, was accidental.

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WALLA WALLA -- A family outing turned into tragedy for a Walla Walla family late Monday afternoon.

Just before 5 p.m., Walla Walla County sheriff's deputies responded to 658 Electric Ave. for a firearm-related death, according to Capt. Bill White.

Pavel Khomenko was at the address with his wife, Yelena Khomenko, and two young sons. He was building boxes for beehives in a shed on the property, White said.

During that time, the couple's 5-year-old son found a .22-caliber rifle that was stored in the shed and picked it up. The weapon discharged and the bullet struck Yelena, grazing her jaw, and proceeded into the chest of 1-year-old Dimitry Khomenko, who was being carried in his mother's arms.

The toddler was rushed to Providence St. Mary Medical Center in a private vehicle and pronounced dead a short time later. Yelena was treated for a superficial wound to her jaw, officials said.

The property belongs to Pavel and Vera Semenko, of 407 W. Whitman St. in College Place. Pavel Semenko told deputies he kept the gun in the shed to protect the chickens he keeps on the property. Deputies also saw shooting targets set up at the address, White said.

Semenko apparently partnered with or hired Pavel Khomenko for his beekeeping business, he noted.

"I do know the property owner told us he had asked that the children not be brought to the property. He had seen them there before and told (the family) they should not bring the kids."

Deputies had to fight through "very agitated" bees to reach the scene, and one deputy was stung, the captain added. "It took us a while to get through."

White was not at the hospital, but heard reports the family was "very shaken" by the accident, he said this morning.

The incident is being treated as an accidental shooting.

Parents must be aware and concerned at all times whenever a gun is in the picture, White cautioned. "Children do often find weapons, unfortunately."

Sheila Hagar can be reached at sheilahagar@wwub.com or 526-8322. Check out her blog at blogs.ublabs.org/fromthestorageroom.

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