NORTH PORT, Fla. - Two young North Port boys found a loaded assault rifle while playing in the woods near their home last weekend. Now investigators are trying to figure out how it got there.
The gun was found in a wooded empty lot along Jinright Road, which is off East Price Boulevard west of South Haberland Boulevard.
The parents of the boys are still shaken. They’re thankful though that they had taken the time to teach the kids not to touch any gun.
On Sunday, 9-year-old Landon Rafard and neighbor 7-year-old Eric Dart were playing in the woods near their homes. "We were jumping around and playing and stuff. Then I just saw the gun," says Landon.
Right then and there the two young men had a very important decision to make. "I was like ‘we should go back and tell our parents now’," says Eric.
As a birthday party with more kids wound down, Landon's mother Jessica Rockwell says they were in disbelief. "When your kids are playing in your own backyard, you don't expect them to run up say ‘mommy there is a gun’."
Still skeptical, the parents went and looked. Just ten feet from the road, there it was: a rusty AR-15 assault rifle.
How big was the decision to run and tell rather then bring it home? “My husband reached down to engage the safety and it went off," says Rockwell.
Days later, Eric's mom Jennifer Dart says she's still shaken. "You don't really realize until after the fact of what could have happened."
In the meantime, North Port Police investigators are trying to find out how it got there.
"I don't know why someone would have that out in the public. I don't know why they would throw it on the side of the road. What motivates an individual to do that, I don't know. Hopefully we can find out who and ask them that question," says Assistant Chief Anthony Sirianni.
Police are heralding the boys for doing the smart thing.
Their parents are pretty proud, too. "I guess in the past we have always told him guns are very dangerous. I can't say how thankful I am he and Landon made the right decision to not touch it."
“It could have been a way different story. I am proud of them."
Some around the neighborhood believe the gun may have been dumped by somebody for some reason, perhaps after a crime. A laptop was also found a few feet away.
Authorities say the gun does have its serial numbers. At this point they say they're tracing back as far as they can.