Stoneham firefighter fatally shot inside home

A Stoneham firefighter was accidentally shot dead inside his home Tuesday night in Stoneham and his friend is now facing charges.

The incident happened on Congress Street around 11 p.m.

The victim, 24-year-old David Atherton, was pronounced dead at the scene. Police said three men were consuming alcohol and passing a gun back and forth, pointing it at each other. Police said it appears the shooting may have been an unintended consequence.

Patrick Riccardi-O’Connor, 23, of Stoneham has been arrested in connection with this incident. He was charged with involuntary manslaughter and discharging a firearm and was arraigned Wednesday in Woburn District Court. He is due back in court on Aug. 3.

The Middlesex District Attorney’s Office, Massachusetts State Police and Stoneham Police are investigating.

According to the DA, the firearm used in the incident is registered to Riccardi-O’Connor, who had a firearm license at the time of the shooting. His firearm license has been revoked.

Bail was set at $25,000. If he makes bail, he has been ordered to have no direct or indirect contact with witnesses, wear GPS monitoring bracelet and not consume alcohol.

Stoneham Fire Chief Matthew Grafton released a statement Wednesday afternoon:

“The Stoneham Fire Department experienced a great tragedy this week, and today we are mourning the loss of a brother. Firefighter David Atherton was new to our department, but had already given a lifetime’s worth of dedicated service to his fellow man.”

Grafton said Atherton joined the department on Feb. 11 and graduated from the Massachusetts Firefighting Academy on June 10.

Atherton is a Stoneham native and a 2011 graduate of Stoneham High School.

He served in the Massachusetts Army National Guard and was awarded eight time during his career for his actions, including the receipt of the Army Commendation Medal.

“Firefighter Atherton always wanted to help people,” Grafton said. “He was selfless and dedicated, and he overcame great tragedy as he lost both of his parents at a young age. 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 this loss.”

Interim Town Administrator Bob Markel issued a statement Wednesday morning:

“Today, our community is coming to grips with a tragedy that resulted in a young man losing his life. Firefighter David Atherton was only 24 years old but had already served his country as a National Guard veteran and his community as a firefighter. 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.”

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