An Atlanta boy, 9, shot himself in the family home after coming home from school on Wednesday (11 May). Detectives are trying to ascertain whether the third grader was being bullied.

Fellow students at Yargo Elementary in Barrow County met with a grief councillor on Thursday to help them deal with the shocking event.

"The school is very traumatised, the teacher is very traumatised. The principal describes him as a very sweet young man, very smart," Barrow County Sheriff Jud Smith told WSBTV.

"We are not sure if it was an accident or self-inflicted," he added.

The boy collected the hand gun from the home on Avalon Court on Winder, although police said it was kept in a secure place.

His parents and a sibling were in the house when he fired the weapon but they did not witness the tragedy. Police were called at around 4.30pm.

Now Sheriff Smith and his team are trying to determine what went through the boy's mind as he took the bus home on Wednesday afternoon and whether he was having trouble at school.

"We are still doing interviews of teachers, parents, kids, friends, kids down the street, trying to figure out how this happened," Smith said. "This mom and dad have to be preparing for a funeral. It's a tragic situation all the way around."

Neighbours expressed their disbelief at the news. Susan Burton said: "I just can't fathom losing a child," while Andrew Ceballos reflected: "He's in a better place. God. That's how I feel.

Smith said he does not expect to press charges in this case but that does not make the task of investigating it any easier.

"This is not something you want to deal with on a day-to-day basis. If you did, you'd want to retire pretty quickly and go do something different."

Sheriff Jud Smith
Screengrab / WSB TV