A 3-year-old girl was reportedly playing with her father’s handgun when she accidentally shot her pregnant mother in a northwest Indiana parking lot.
The toddler shot Shaneque Thomas, who is apparently six weeks pregnant, striking her between the chest and shoulder outside a Plato’s Closet thrift store in Merrillville.
“The girl had no idea what she had done and she was very scared,” said Detective Sgt. James Bogner.
According to the police, Menzo Brazier, the victim’s boyfriend and father of her two kids, ages 3 and 1, was inside the thrift store trying on clothes at the time of the shooting. He had reportedly left his legal 9-millimeter handgun between the console and his front passenger seat.
The Merrillville police suspect the 3-year-old climbed to the front seat, grabbed the gun and pulled the trigger. The bullet pierced through the back of the seat and hit the 21-year-old woman.
Thomas reportedly got out of the driver seat to open the door to the backseat where her children were sitting, but couldn’t hold herself for long and collapsed.
Witnesses saw Thomas falling over in the parking lot and called 911.
A Plato's Closet employee, Hadassah Zirkle, told NBC 5 a distraught witness ran inside the store and told her there was a woman bleeding outside.
"There was blood flowing all from her stomach; just coming out like water, like a faucet, and I screamed 'Someone call 911,'" Zirkle recalled.
Another employee, Paloma Prieto, told the news outlet Brazien rushed outside and was "bawling his eyes out" as he wrapped his jacket around Thomas to try and stop the bleeding until paramedics arrived.
“He said, ‘Did you kill yourself? Why did you do this to me?’” said store employee Rebecca Todd.
Employees took charge of the situation by bringing the distressed kids inside the store and comforting them. First responders arrived at the scene and transported Thomas to a local hospital for treatment. Later, she was transferred to Loyola University Medical Center where she was listed in critical but stable condition.
Brazier is being held for child endangerment. He also had a warrant out for traffic violations.
The children are currently under the custody of the Indiana Department of Child Services.
“A loaded weapon with children in the back seat: real careless act,” Merrillville Police Chief Joe Petruch told WMAQ. “I hope she survives the gunshot wound.”
This incident is yet another reminder of how dangerous guns are and how even a momentarily lapse of attention can lead to such horrifying situations.
It also draws attention toward inadvertent repercussions of having firearms around. There have been several instances in the past when the gun owners ended up harming themselves, for example, when man in Florida accidentally shot himself during a road rage incident or when a man accidentally shot himself and another during his graduation ceremony in Kansas.
It goes without saying that one needs to be extra careful with these deadly weapons around kids. Thomas is fortunate enough to survive the ordeal unlike Patrice Price, 26, of Milwaukee who was shot dead by her own 2-year-old son.
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