Two weeks after toddler shoots himself, father is charged in death

Nicholas Wyllie, 26, of Quakertown, was charged with involuntary manslaughter, endangering the welfare of a child, and recklessly endangering another person in the death of his son, Benjamin Smith, 2. He was arraigned at district court in Perkasie on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016.

Two-year-old Benjamin Smith told his father he was going to watch Winnie the Pooh. He went into a bedroom to turn on the TV. A few minutes passed.

Then, a bang.

The boy, police said, picked up a .45 caliber handgun that his father kept loaded on a nightstand and accidentally shot himself. He died just before midnight Sept. 12.

On Wednesday, the father, Nicholas Wyllie, 26, of Quakertown, was charged with involuntary manslaughter, endangering the welfare of a child, and recklessly endangering another person. He was arraigned at District Court in Perkasie.

"This is a terribly tragic death, and the worst part about it is it was 100 percent avoidable," Bucks County District Attorney Matthew D. Weintraub said outside the courtroom.

Wyllie had three guns in the home, Weintraub said, and rounds of ammunition were also found on the nightstand.

His son had multiple toy guns and was used to playing with guns, police said. The boy's mother told police he had been taught a two-hand grip for handguns. His great-grandfather said the family had previously asked Wyllie to put his guns away because "Ben loves guns," according to the court affidavit.

Wyllie "left a loaded gun out, and his 2-year-old son was groomed to understand that guns could be held and handled," Weintraub said.

Wyllie turned himself in and appeared in court with two attorneys Wednesday.

Several members of his family watched the arraignment.

"I don't think he's trying to avoid responsibility," Weintraub said. "He was appropriately distraught."

Wyllie did not make any comment to the press or speak during the arraignment, except to answer the judge. He is employed in Quakertown.

Citing statistics about unintentional child gun deaths, Weintraub repeated the adage, "Guns don't kill people, people kill people," and said, "This case proves that is false."

District Judge Charles W. Baum released Wyllie on $50,000 unsecured bail. A formal arraignment is set for Oct. 28.

jmcdaniel@phillynews.com 610-313-8205 @McDanielJustine

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