Stoneham | A man pleaded not guilty today to charges he fatally shot his firefighter friend while they were drinking alcohol and playing with a handgun. Patrick Riccardi-O’Connor, 23, was arraigned today in Woburn District Court on charges of involuntary manslaughter and related crimes in the death of David Atherton, 24, a Stoneham firefighter and National Guardsman. Police found Atherton dead Tuesday night inside his Stoneham home.
Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan said a preliminary investigation shows that Riccardi-O’Connor and Atherton were drinking with a third man. Riccardi-O’Connor and Atherton childhood friends began passing a gun back-and-forth and pointing it at each other.
It appears the fatal shooting may have been an unintended consequence of this behavior, Ryan and Stoneham Police Chief James McIntyre said in a statement. Police said Riccardi-O’Connor originally told them Atherton had shot himself but later admitted shooting Atherton while the two were fooling around with the gun.
Riccardi-O’Connor told police he didn’t think the gun was loaded. Riccardi-O’Connor’s attorney didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment. Atherton received a single gunshot wound to the chest.
The gun was registered to Riccardi-O’Brien. Both men were military police officers in the Massachusetts Army National Guard. Judge Michael Brooks set bail at USD 25,000 cash. The next court hearing in the case is scheduled for August 3.