The New Jersey man whose 4-year-old son shot and killed a 6-year-old playmate is deeply sorrowed by the child's death, his lawyer said Wednesday in the first public comments from the family since the tragic shooting.
Authorities say Anthony Senatore's son took a loaded .22-caliber rifle from a bedroom April 8 and shot Brandon Holt while they were playing outdoors. While searching Senatore's Tom's River home, investigators found four shotguns that were located close to ammunition and accessible to the 4-year-old boy and Senatore's other children, ages 12 and 8.
Senatore was arrested late Monday and charged with child endangerment and enabling access by minors to a loaded firearm.
Senatore's attorney, Robert Ebberup, said in a statement Wednesday that his client is a devoted husband and father with strong roots in the community who has never run afoul of the law.
"Outside of the Holt family, no other person or family grieves more over the loss of Brandon," Ebberup said. "There is not one day that passes where my client does not feel the pain and sorrow over the loss of such a wonderful child."
"While we did not know him in life, we have come to learn how amazing little Brendan Holt was," Ebberup added. "He will be missed by all those who knew him for a very long time."
While expressing his condolences to the Holt family, Ebberup said Senatore has fully cooperated with investigators and would continue to do so. He criticized prosecutors for having Senatore arrested at home in front of his family instead of giving him a chance to surrender, accusing them of "grandstanding" to "try this case in the media."
Acting Atlantic County Prosecutor Jim McClain defended the office's actions, explaining that Senatore's arrest followed standard procedures.
"We do not negotiate the surrender of defendants," he said. "We feel that such a practice is unfair to those persons accused of crimes who cannot afford an attorney."
Senatore was released on bond and is next due in court Thursday.
In the hours after the shooting, investigators were seen carrying multiple firearms out of Senatore's home. At the time, Holt's grandmother told NBC 4 New York she was angry the family failed to take adequate care to lock up their guns.
This week, she said Senatore's arrest was one step towards justice for Holt, but suggested the shooter's mother bore some responsibility for his death as well.
A woman at Senatore's home declined to comment Tuesday.