Investigators believe an Alabama teen found dead March 8 was accidentally shot by a friend as they handled a loaded rifle, a sheriff’s office spokesman said.

No arrests had been made March 11 amid an ongoing investigation into what led to a 14-year-old discharging a .22-caliber rifle and shooting Matthew Ryan Hubbard of Heflin, Alabama, in the head.

Deputies and other first-responders answered a 7:05 p.m. call about a teen that had been accidentally shot at 35 Legend Creek Way where the 14-year-old lived in unincorporated Douglasville in south Paulding County, said Sgt. Ashley Henson of the Paulding County Sheriff’s Office.

“Responders arrived on scene and attempted to resuscitate the victim, but he had already passed away,” Henson said.

He said the rifle had been purchased by the 14-year-old's mother., Henson said. Detectives found the two teens had the rifle in a bedroom within the residence before the incident occurred.

“While the 14-year-old juvenile was handling the rifle, he accidentally discharged it, striking the 15-year-old in the head,” Henson said. “The 15-year-old victim, who resided in Alabama, was a friend of the 14-year-old.”

He said the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab conducted an autopsy on Saturday.

Sheriff Gary Gulledge said the victim “was taken from the world way too soon.”

“Gun safety is everyone’s responsibility,” he said. “Please remember to always keep guns and ammunition locked in a safe place and out of the reach of children.

“God bless all of the families involved in this tragic case.”

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