A 3-year-old boy in suburban Chicago found a gun in his family’s car and accidentally fired it, killing his young mother who was sitting in the front seat, police said.
The toddler’s father has been charged with a misdemeanor weapons count following the tragic accident that occurred Saturday in a Food4Less parking lot in the village of Dolton, just after the family had gone grocery shopping, authorities said.
The child found a pistol belonging to his father and began playing with it in the back seat, officials said. When he pulled the trigger, a bullet hit his 22-year-old mom, Daejah Bennett, in the back, Dolton Police Chief Robert Collins told Digital on Tuesday.
The dad, Rommell Watson, 23, was released from police custody after being charged with unlawful use of weapon, Collins said.
“He was legally entitled to own the gun, however, he transported the weapon in a vehicle in a manner not prescribed by law,” the chief said.
Bennet was pronounced dead at University of Chicago Medical Center hours after the shooting.
“We’re trying to get trauma counseling for (the child) and his family because he’s going to need it the rest of his life,” said community activist and Dolton village trustee Andrew Holmes. “That life changed within a second.”
Holmes handed out 400 gun locks Sunday in the supermarket parking lot where the shooting happened. “Children are getting these guns more often now because they roll out from under the seat, or they go in the pouch and pick it up,” Holmes said. “If you’re going to put them in the car, lock them down.”
Gun sales have risen dramatically since the COVID-19 pandemic began, officials said. Putting a lock on the trigger takes only a few seconds.
“Unlock it, thread it through the barrel, bring it back around, put it in and lock it back,” Holmes told shoppers as he distributed the safety devices.
“This could have been prevented.”