Ten-year-old Eric Klyaz died in June after he was accidentally shot while playing with a gun in his neighbor’s garage. The neighbor, Todd Francis, is now facing charges of accidental manslaughter; key witnesses spoke in Wednesday’s preliminary hearing.
Francis, accompanied by his wife and teenage son, listened to the testimony as he wiped tears from his eyes.
On the day of the accident, Klyaz was playing with Francis’ 9-year-old daughter in the garage of the defendants’ home in San Diego. The children discovered a firearm, and began to play with it. The gun fired, shooting a fatal bullet into Klyaz’s chest.
San Diego Police Officer Vito Messineo interviewed Francis’ daughter immediately after the incident, and testified about their conversation.
According to Messineo, he asked the girl what had happened. “She answered, ‘We were inside the garage playing, it was just us. There was a gun sitting on top of the couch and we were both touching it. Then it fired and it was pointing at Eric.’”
The officer also asked her who had been holding the gun. She responded, “Well, we were both holding it. I don’t really remember. It was just there and we both had it.”
Francis’s teenage son was watching the kids that day, as his parents were away from home. Francis insisted that the gun had not been loaded. “He said, ‘I just want to let you know that the gun was hidden and I know for sure it was not loaded. I guess I should’ve secured it better. If that kid dies, I don’t want to live anymore,’” testified Messineo.
Francis had reportedly hidden the gun case behind the water heater in the garage, and says he repeatedly told the children not to touch anything in there. He also claims that the ammunition was stored in a separate location.
Francis is an ex-employee of the TSA, and had recently lived in Las Vegas before moving back to San Diego. He is also the brother of Steve Francis, who once ran for mayor of San Diego.