(Reuters) - A 14-year-old Alabama boy was charged with five counts of murder on Tuesday in the shooting deaths of his family including three younger children, Limestone County Sheriff's officials said, in the latest high-profile gun crime.
Details emerged early Wednesday, but officials do not know why the boy took a gun and shot his father, stepmother and three siblings late on Monday, and then threw the gun away before calling police to report that he heard gunshots.
The boy is accused of shooting his father, John Sisk, 38, a automobile repairman, stepmother Mary Sisk, 35, a teacher in Huntsville, Alabama, and three siblings who were not named by the sheriff's office.
The children were only identified as his two stepbrothers, ages 6 and 6 months, and a 5-year-old stepsister, the sheriff's office said in a release.
The shootings happened at the family home in Elkmont, Alabama, about 100 miles north of Birmingham, at about 10:30 p.m. Monday, officials said.
The youth then took the 9 mm pistol and threw it away on a nearby roadside, before calling police to say he heard gunshots, officials said. It has since been found.
The boy later confessed to shooting his family, officials said.
"The 14-year old caller was interviewed and confessed to shooting all five members of his family in the residence," the sheriff's office said on Twitter.
The gun used in the homicides was in the home illegally, Sheriff's spokesman Stephen Young told the media in a Tuesday news conference.
It was unclear where the teenager obtained the gun.
Young did not take questions from the media.
The boy is charged as a juvenile, which means his name and other details have not been released, but a prosecutor could ask a judge to try the youth as an adult.
"Unfortunately, we are facing a tragedy on the scale we aren't used to in Limestone County, Alabama," the sheriff's office said in a statement.
The boy is being held at a juvenile detention facility. It is unclear if he has an attorney.
The killings follow a rash of mass shootings in the United States, including a weekend one in Texas in which seven people were killed and 22 wounded, including a toddler.
Last month, a gunman killed 22 people and wounded 24 in El Paso, Texas, while another assailant killed nine and injured 27 in Dayton, Ohio.
Amid a renewed national debate, President Donald Trump said over the weekend that background checks on gun purchasers would not have prevented the recent violence.
(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Robert Birsel)