Prescott Valley police said a 4-year-old boy accidentally shot and killed his father around 12:30 p.m. Friday while they were at a friend's house.
They said 35-year-old Justin Stanfield Thomas and his son drove up from Phoenix for an unannounced visit to see his former roommate.
Within minutes of being inside the home, the 4-year-old found a gun, picked it up and asked what it was.
It discharged - hitting his dad.
"He was still in his pajamas when all this happened," said Jeremy Hartt, the former roommate's next-door neighbor. "But I mean, he keeps a loaded gun for protection. He used to be a military police officer."
Thomas was taken to a Prescott-area hospital in extremely critical condition, where he died from his injuries.
Hartt, who also knew Thomas, told CBS5 News he was an Iraq War veteran and a former member of the Army's Green Beret - who loved his little boy.
"He was a great dad," said Hartt. "He was a great dad. But, he (Thomas' 4-year-old son) was a curious little boy. And, he (Thomas) turned around for one second, and that's when this incident happened – apparently it happened really fast."
Police said they are investigating Thomas' death as a homicide - as they do anytime someone dies of anything other than natural causes.
"At this point, it does appear that this is just a tragic accident from this child, and we will look to see if there's any negligence issues there," said Prescott Valley police Sgt. Brandon Bonney. "But, at this point, the information we have is it's just a tragic accident that was unforeseen."
Police said the 4-year-old is now in the care of his mother and doesn't seem to grasp that his father is gone.
Hartt also said Thomas had recently become a father for the second time with his current girlfriend.
Stay with cbs5az.com for updates on this developing story.
Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.
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