Police: Man Playing Around With Gun Kills Firefighter Friend

The victim, David Atherton, 24, a Stoneham firefighter, was pronounced dead at the scene

A Stoneham, Massachusetts, firefighter was killed in a house shooting Tuesday night and a suspect has been arrested, according to the Middlesex District Attorney's Office. 

The shooting at the home on Congress Street happened shortly after 11 p.m. 

The victim, 23-year-old David Atherton, a Stoneham firefighter, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Patrick Riccardi-O'Connor, 23, was arrested and charged with involuntary manslaughter, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon causing serious bodily injury and discharging a firearm.

Initial investigation suggests the two were drinking and passing a gun back and forth, pointing it at each other. Officials believe the shooting was a result of this behavior.

In court, where he was described as a childhood friend of Atherton's, Riccardi-O'Connor posted his $25,000 bail. He was ordered to wear a GPS bracelet, to obey a curfew and to stay away from alcohol and dangerous weapons as conditions of his bail.

Stoneham Fire Chief Matthew Grafton says the department is mourning the loss of Atherton, who became a full-time firefighter in February this year and had previously served in the Massachusetts Army National Guard.

"Firefighter Atherton always wanted to help people. He was selfless and dedicated, and he overcame great tragedy as he lost both of his parents at a young age," he said. "I cannot help but feel that the best was yet to come for this young man, and we in the Stoneham Fire Department are still coming to terms with his loss."

Grafton said Atherton will be buried with full military and fire department honors.

Bob Markel, Stoneham's interim town administrator, said the community is reeling from the tragic loss.

"On behalf of the entire community, I offer my most sincere condolences to Firefighter Atherton's family and friends and his fire department family during this difficult time. I was very proud and moved by the fire department's response overnight, as firefighters lined the roadway in a show of respect to their brother firefighter," he said in a statement.

Atherton's brother told necn he was a "kind soul" and "the hole he left in this world will never be filled."

Riccardi-O'Connor is due back in court on Aug. 3 for a probable cause hearing. It's unclear if he has an attorney.

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