OAKLAND — The 8-year-old boy who was found dead Tuesday at a home on Church Street died of a gunshot wound to the head after his father’s loaded 12-gauge shotgun went off as the boy was handling it, state officials said Wednesday.

Parker Stevens had been handling the gun inside a closet in his parents’ second-floor bedroom when it fired, the Office of Chief Medical Examiner said. State police detectives said the Mossberg shotgun had eight shells in the gun’s magazine tube, and the boy apparently racked one of the shells into the chamber before he fired the gun.

Detectives continue to investigate the case, and state police said Wednesday night that they didn’t yet have enough information from the Medical Examiner’s Office to conclusively say the boy’s death was accidental. But Maine Department of Public Safety spokesman Steve McCausland said no charges will be filed.

Parker’s mother, Sara Stevens, found him 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 gun go off, McCausland said in a news release. Wade Stevens, Parker’s father, was at work at the time and immediately came home.

Parker was going into the fourth grade at Williams Elementary School.

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, Sara Stevens said the family is asking for privacy and thanked those who have contacted 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 she did not give her name.

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

Julie Plante, who lives across the street from the Stevenses, said she was good friends with the family.

“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 has often seen 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 at home when the death was reported, but said she came home and found police on the street.

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

An 8-year-old boy died in this house at 19 Church St. in Oakland when he was handling is father’s loaded gun in a closet and shot himself. Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

Wade Stevens is the manager of the meat market at the Save-A-Lot store in Waterville, said one of his employees, Randy Frappier. He said he was at work Tuesday when Stevens’ wife called him and said their oldest son had been 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 state police also listed a number of safety suggestions for parents who keep a gun in a home where there are children:

Guns should be unloaded and kept out of reach; ammunition and weapons should be stored separately.

 Gun locks and gun safes can be used for safe storage.

Trigger locks can be obtained free from most police departments.

Debbie Frost, who lives two houses away 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 she 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 Stevenses 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 a gunshot.

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 ahold of guns in the house and they get playing with them.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

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Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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