The gun was left in the backseat of the car, somewhere close enough for the little one to access it, but out of the mom's eyesight.
Trigger Warning: This story contains details of gun violence that may be disturbing to readers.
A 3-year-old boy accidentally shot and killed his mother after finding a gun in the backseat of the family’s car in Illinois, according to ABC7 Chicago.
The horrific tragedy took place after 22-year-old Dejah Bennet and her boyfriend arrived with her son at a supermarket in the Chicago suburb of Dolton on March 12, 2022, according to police reports.
While both of the parents' backs were turned, their toddler somehow grabbed hold of a loaded gun—and just seconds later, a single shot was fired. The tragic incident took place around 8:30 pm in the parking lot of a Food 4 Less store.
Bennet was shot in the neck, and she was immediately rushed to the hospital by emergency responders but she, unfortunately, succumbed to her injuries. According to the Cook County medical examiner’s office, Bennet was pronounced dead roughly an hour after the incident, at around 9:34 pm, at the University of Chicago Medical Center.
The mother had reportedly just finished her grocery shopping when she was shot. In addition to her young son, she was also accompanied by the boy's father, Romell Watson, who is believed to be her partner. 23-year-old Watson—who is the owner of the gun—was arrested and later charged with a misdemeanor gun charge. The man didn't deny that the gun was his and was arrested over the weekend without incident.
According to a source who spoke with the Chicago Tribune, the mother had just buckled their son into his car seat, loaded groceries into the car, and settled into the front passenger seat before the little one found the gun and shot at her.
It is understood that the gun was left in the backseat of the car, somewhere close enough for the little one to access it, but out of the mom's eyesight. At the same time, the father was reportedly sitting in the driver's seat facing away from his son, also unaware of what was going on behind him.
Initially, there was some confusion about what exactly unfurled, with some reports citing that the toddler was playing with the gun at the time it went off or if he merely picked it up and dropped it before the weapon misfired. But, by afternoon on March 14, 2022, Dolton Police Chief Robert Collins Jr. said that investigators had developed a clear sense of what happened that night.
Boy, 3, accidentally kills mom with gun he found in car’s back seat https://t.co/QiXj5QAFaz Dejah Bennet, 22, was pronounced dead at University of Chicago Medical Center at 9:34 p.m. Saturday, according to information from the Cook County medical examiner’s office.— Patrick Battaglia (@patandbrenda200) March 16, 2022
"He somehow got ahold of the gun and began playing with it in a playful manner, pointed the gun and fired the shot," Collins said, according to NBC 5 Chicago. It was also confirmed by a person who is specially trained in talking to young children who interviewed the toddler, asking him what—if anything—he could remember from the accident, according to Collins.
"The child said he was the one who fired the gun," Collins shared. "We are confident he fired the gun."
Meanwhile, the community is grieving the loss of Bennet, with many claiming that this situation could have been completely avoided. "This could have been prevented," said Dolton trustee and crisis responder Andrew Holmes.
Holmes stood outside the supermarket Sunday, handing out 400 gun locks while speaking to shoppers, families in particular, about the importance of gun safety.
"It's very important. If you do have guns at home, put them up -- lock them up. If you have little children, it doesn't matter, they get into any and everything," said Dolton resident Crystal Lyons.
"All it takes is a second: unlock it, thread it through the barrel, bring it back around, put it in and lock it back," Holmes added. "If you leave it, secure it."
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