Arizona Man Shoots Himself in the Head While Trying to Demonstrate Gun Safety Feature

Moments after bragging about the double-safety feature on his handgun, and then attempting to demonstrate how it works, 23-year-old Phoenix resident Christen Reece shot himself in the head.

“You know, there's not really a lot to the story other than don't drink and shoot guns,” explains Jim Molesa, chief deputy of the Navajo County Sheriff's Office, which is conducting the official investigation. Molesa says this very matter-of-factly and then immediately launches into a detailed account of what happened:

For Reece and six of his friends, Tuesday, September 2, probably started like any old regular night of bar hopping:

“They were partying in the Valley, and then when the bars closed around 2 or 3, someone said, 'Let's go to the high country and shoot guns,'” Molesa says.

"Let's go to the high country and shoot guns,'”

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They piled into two cars and drove up to Navajo County, stopping about a mile south of Highway 277 in the town of Overgaard, not too far from where the father of one of the women in the group lived. They parked the vehicles on the side of the road near a wooded area and did a little target shooting.

Reece was trying to get across how cool it was that his gun had a double-safety and therefore would never go off unexpectedly, and at some point — with plenty of alcohol still in his system — decided to demonstrate the nifty feature for his friends.

“He held the gun up to head, a little behind the temple area, and fired,” Molesa says. “He immediately dropped to the ground, and his acquaintances started freaking out, not sure what to do.”

Panicking, the girl whose the father lived nearby called him to say they needed to go to the hospital. But because the nearest hospital is in Show Low, at least 40 miles away, he told them to take Reece to the Heber-Overgaard fire station, where there would be paramedics on duty.

The fire station was about two miles away, and after dropping off his bloody and unconscious body, Reece's friends ran away. Police have identified two of them but are hoping to find the others so they can be interviewed.

“He held the gun up to head, a little behind the temple area, and fired,”

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The paramedics began treating Reece, but because the wound was much more serious than they were equipped to handle, had him airlifted to Scottsdale Osborn hospital. When he arrived early Wednesday morning, he was immediately taken into surgery. He remains in critical condition a day later.

“I really don't know if the particular weapon had a double-safety or not,” Molesa says, adding that if there's one thing he's learned in more than three decades in law enforcement it's that “any gunshot wound to the head you survive is a miracle.”

Molesa stops short of passing judgment on Reece and his friends, but he does note that “the main thing any teacher of a gun-safety class wants students to walk away is that you should treat every gun as if it's loaded and never point it at yourself or anyone else.”

Christen Reece apparently didn't attend that class.
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Miriam is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Miriam Wasser