A Parkside man who was showing his wife how to properly use a gun after the couple had been drinking lemonade and vodka for six hours was killed when his wife allegedly misfired one of the guns while handling it, according to police.
Parkside Chief John Egan said police were called to the couple's home shortly before 4 a.m. Saturday and found 43-year-old William Wanko at the bottom of a set of a basement stairs with a single gunshot wound to his upper chest, just below his Adam's apple.
He was transported to Crozer-Chester Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 4:21 a.m. Egan said.
Wanko's wife, Michele, 42, told police that she and her husband began drinking lemonade and vodka around 9 p.m. Friday and about six hours in to the drinking session Michele Wanko, a stay-at-home mom, told her husband she wanted to learn how to use a weapon in case someone tried to break in to their home while he was away, Egan said.
William Wanko took out several weapons he had in a locked safe in the couple's basement and was showing his wife how to properly use them, according to police. As he was getting another gun out of the safe, Michele Wanko allegedly picked up a semi-automatic pistol, pulled the slide back as her husband had showed her and the gun went off, striking William Wanko.
"He was able to say, according to her, 'I can't believe you shot me,'" Egan said.
William Wanko then tried to run up the basement steps but fell back down, police said. Michele Wanko called 911.
"To say the very least, she was frantic," Egan said. "When she called 911 ... they could not tell from the way that she was yelling and screaming in to the phone what happened."
The eldest of the couple's two children, who are ages 5 and 2, woke up when he heard his mother scream, Egan said..
Michele Wanko was charged with involuntary manslaughter and related offenses Saturday night but has since been released on bail, Egan said.
The couple's young boys were placed in the care of family.
"It's a very sad situation, not only for the wife who has to live with this for the rest of her life, but their children who have to live with this and, of course, have to grow up without a father," Egan said.
Police had been called to the couple's house just once, a year ago, for a domestic argument, but by the time they arrived on scene Michele Wanko begged the cops to let her husband stay. Egan said the couple's neighbors had nothing but praise for them.
"All the neighbors talked very highly of both people," he said. "They said they were pleasant, easy to get along with and good neighbors who cared for their kids."
Egan said the case is a sobering reminder of what can happen when alcohol and firearms mix.
"Why, after six-and-a-half hours of drinking, would you go down and handle a gun, especially with someone who never shot a weapon before?" Egan said. 'The real big common denominator is the alcohol and it ended up costing him his life."
Parkside is a .21-square mile borough of a little more than 2,200 residents that borders Chester. This marks the first homicide in the borough in 13 years, Egan said.