A West Bath man was charged with endangering the welfare of a child after his 4-year-old stepson got hold of an unsecured gun and fired a round into an adjacent apartment on New Meadows Road Thursday morning.

According to the Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Office, Stephen R. Ambrose, 24, allegedly took the weapon — a 40 caliber semi-automatic pistol — out of a closet, set it down on a dresser in the bedroom and then left to retrieve his holster and belt.

“In the brief moment the stepfather was away the 4 year old grabbed the firearm and discharged a single shot,” authorities stated in a Friday press release. The bullet penetrated a wall and passed through the closet door of a nearby apartment.

The boy dropped the weapon after firing it, according to authorities. The neighbor was home at the time and heard a popping sound but didn’t realize what caused it until deputies notified them. No injuries were reported.

This is the second case of a child shooting an unsecured gun in West Bath in recent months. In May, a 2-year-old boy injured his parents and himself in a similar incident. That shooting also occurred on New Meadows Road.

“The issue of adults leaving handguns unattended, in the presence of children is a serious problem. Parents have a responsibility to keep their children safe,” said Sagadahoc Country Sheriff Joel Merry in the release. “If you are going to own a gun, be responsible. We encourage gun owners to secure their weapons with gunlocks or keep them in a safe location, away from children.”

Endangering the welfare of a child is a Class D crime.

Ambrose is scheduled to appear at West Bath District Court on Jan. 18, 2022. Class D crimes are punishable by up to 364 days incarceration and a $2,000 fine.

The Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the case.

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