The family of a boy who died after being shot through the eye with an air rifle yesterday told how he was a "kind and caring son".
Mitchel Picken, aged 12, from Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, was admitted to hospital last Thursday after being hit in the right eye with an airgun pellet. He underwent surgery but died from head injuries two days later.
Two 12-year-old boys were arrested and released on bail.
Mitchel's parents, Andrew and Joanne, were too distraught to talk about the tragedy yesterday but issued a statement through Staffordshire Police.
Mr Picken, aged 37, and his wife, 35, described their son as a natural sportsman who was extremely close to his seven-year-old brother.
"Mitchel was a beautiful, intelligent young boy, and we cannot describe our grief at losing him in such a tragic way," they said. "We have lost a kind and caring son. He and his brother Lewis thought the world of each other. There is now a massive gap in our lives."
Mitchel lived in Baddeley Green and went to Holden Lane High School in Sneyd Green.
The statement continued: "He lived for his football team, Port Vale, and his sport. Port Vale was his hobby. He loved the club and the players and was once team mascot.
"He'd followed them since he was four, and got a season ticket when he was ten. The Vale will stay with him."
The statement revealed Mitchel excelled at football, cricket, tennis, snooker, pool and ten-pin bowling.
"He played a season for Newcastle Town FC, where he was chosen as manager's player of the year."
The statement concluded: "We loved Mitchel dearly. He was a fun-loving boy with the world at his feet, and everything to live for."
Mitchel was admitted to hospital after paramedics from Staffordshire Ambulance Service were called to a house in Greenway Hall Road, Stockton Brook.
A police spokesman said: "He was taken by ambulance to the University Hospital of North Staffordshire, where he had surgery and was critically ill in intensive care. Sadly, he died on Saturday afternoon."
A post-mortem by a Home Office pathologist found Mitchel died from a penetrating wound to the head.
Detective Inspector Neil Hulme, of Staffordshire's Major Investigations Department, said: "This is obviously a very sensitive inquiry. We are working with the other two boys to establish exactly what happened before deciding on the most appropriate way forward.
"Mitchel's death would appear to serve as a reminder of the dangers of children having access to air weapons."