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3-Year-Old Dies In One Of Several Recent Local Incidents Where Child Accessed Gun

Sara Lerner

A three–year–old Tacoma boy died overnight after he found a gun and shot himself. As KUOW's Sara Lerner reports, it's the third incident recently where a child in the Puget Sound region accessed a gun, with tragic results.


Tuesday, over night, a family stopped for gas in Tacoma. The three–year–old boy and his four–year–old one–year–old sister's mom went inside the gas station. The mom's boyfriend had the gun on him. Tacoma Police spokesperson Naveed Benjamin explains what happened next.

[Ed.: Tacoma police later updated details of the incident: The boy's sister is a one–year–old, not a four–year–old as police officials had previously stated. (03/19/2012)]

Benjamin: "He hides the gun under the front seat when he goes out to gas up the car. The girlfriend, she goes into the mini–mart there. The three–year–old boy reportedly was in a child seat in the backseat of this minivan. And while both of the adults are out of the vehicle he crawls forward, finds the handgun and discharges it."

The boy was rushed to the hospital and he died.

The incident is similar to two others in only the last three weeks. On Sunday, a seven–year–old girl died after her brother found a gun in the family van. The parents were outside of the van while it was parked in Stanwood. The gun belonged to the boy's dad, who is a Marysville police officer.

And three weeks ago (2/22/2012), a nine–year–old boy brought a gun to school in Bremerton. Authorities say he took it while he was visiting the home of his mother and her boyfriend. The boy lives with his uncle. Some reports say the boy wanted to run away with it, but it went off accidentally at his elementary school. His eight–year–old classmate is still in the hospital in serious condition, after several surgeries.

Tuesday Kitsap County Prosecutor Russell Hauge charged the boy's mother and her boyfriend with felony assault: negligent infliction of bodily harm. Hauge says he's pushing the envelope with the charges because the situation was egregious.

Hauge: "I recognize that we are doing something that hasn't been done before, but I think that that is the job of a prosecutor. The law is not a cookbook and we are charged with trying to find the right fit for the right situations."

He says there were loaded firearms around the house with no attempt to limit access. In fact, nobody realized the gun was missing for a few days.

Hauge: "It is really a small step away from saying to this nine–year–old boy, we have a bunch of guns lying around, why don't you just take one with you?"

The mother of the Bremerton boy and her boyfriend face five years if they're convicted.

I'm Sara Lerner, KUOW News.

© Copyright 2012, KUOW