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UPDATED: 3-year-old accidentally shoots, kills himself at Tacoma gas station

Post by Stacey Mulick / The News Tribune on March 14, 2012 at 5:36 am with 61 Comments »
March 14, 2012 11:35 am
The scene from today's early morning shooting in Tacoma/Courtesy of KIRO TV

UPDATED at 10:20 a.m.

Tacoma police say a 3-year-old boy accidentally shot and killed himself early today while his mother was inside a convenience store.

The child and his younger sister were in a car with their mother and her boyfriend, police spokesman Naveed Benjamin said.

The boyfriend stopped just before 12:30 a.m. to get gas at a station in the 5400 block of Tacoma Mall Boulevard, police reported. (The adults and children were riding in a vehicle with Oregon plates but the boy lived in Tacoma.)

The man told police that he put his loaded handgun under the driver’s side seat and got out to pump gas. The mother, meanwhile, got out of the car and went into the convenience store, police reported.

The siblings were inside the car. The boy got out of his car seat.

“He makes his way to the front to find this pistol,” Benjamin said.

The gun fired, striking the boy in the head. Paramedics took the boy to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead, Benjamin said.

The girl, believed to be about 1, was not injured.

Tacoma police detectives responded to the gas station and interviewed the mother and boyfriend. Both were later released.

Benjamin said the boyfriend had a concealed weapons permit and legally owned the gun that killed the boy.

Under state law, people with concealed weapons permits can have their weapons in the car with them but they either need to have them on their person or unloaded and in a locked container, Benjamin said.

“If you have a concealed weapon permit and you are traveling, the weapon has to be on you,” he said. “The key issue is to have control of your weapon.”

Tacoma police haven’t released why the man put his gun under the seat and why the adults and children were driving around after midnight.

The Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office has not released the boy’s name.

The boy’s death is the third shooting of a child in recent weeks in western Washington.

The 7-year-old daughter of a Marysville police officer in Stanwood was shot on Saturday when a sibling found a gun and fired while the parents were out of their car. She died the next day.

On Feb. 22, an 8-year-old girl was critically wounded in a Bremerton classroom when a gun fired from the backpack of a 9-year-old boy as he put it on a desk.

“It’s another tragedy in a very short period of time,” Benjamin said.

It highlights the need for people to secure guns, he said.

“You can’t predict what children are going to do,” he said. “You need to unload and lock it up if you’re not carrying it.”

“And keep it out of the hands of children,” Benjamin said. “It’s really not that hard to practice firearm safety.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Leave a comment Comments → 61
  1. Rip poor little boy!!! Washington has plan C birth control.

  2. kendig00212 says:

    Gun control starts with the owner of the weapon. If it’s not in your possession, keep it locked up and unloaded. It would have taken 5 seconds to unload the weapon. Think, then act.

  3. Geez,,, I’m not against firearm ownership but this is really sad. With the violent society we have, having protection is understandable.But it requires responsibility! Sorry for lose of child.

  4. alindasue says:

    There are some good reasons for owning a gun (target sport, hunting, etc), but getting a gun for “protection” makes no sense.

    In most cases, unless it’s loaded and easily accessible, it’s useless during those exact moments when “protection” is needed… but if it’s loaded and easily accessible – especially around children – it’s a tragedy waiting to happen.

    I feel for that family, especially the little girl who was in the car and had to watch it happen. My prayers are with them.

  5. The right to bear arms require responsibilities. Another senseless death of a child due to carelessness.

  6. donaldtock says:

    Hey you gun owners out there…ONLY YOU can prevent this senseless killing of our children!!

  7. What is a 3 year old doing up at 12:30am anyway?

  8. Also, why would a 3 year old even be up at 12:30am? Sad story!

  9. And a 3 year old is up and driving around at midnight why?

  10. QuinnGirl says:

    Before my daughter was born, her father insisted on carrying a gun in the car, as well as visiting “friends” who had weapons. Guess he thought that would make him a “man”. In any case… once our daughter was born, I told him that it was too dangerous – and I told him he could either give up his guns and lifestyle, or give up his family. He left us the next day… My daughter is now 33, and ALIVE and WELL… and he’s a convicted felon. Go figure…

  11. And why is a 3 year old even up at midnight?

  12. Sorry, said comments were not posting…oops

  13. QuinnGirl: Good for you. Common sense prevails in you. Sadly it evades so many others.

  14. alindasue says:

    clinn said, “What is a 3 year old doing up at 12:30am anyway?”

    I can’t speak specifically for this case, but the kids being up at that that hour doesn’t seem that odd to me.

    My husband and I are both “night owls” and he’s always worked the night shift. When our children were preschool age, before we had to worry about getting everyone up early for school, it was not uncommon for us to be out doing things like grocery shopping at midnight when the stores were less crowded. It was a little backward from most of society, but it worked for us.

    I’m more concerned about why the boyfriend felt the need to keep a loaded gun under the driver’s seat…

  15. Of course the gun is obviously a concern, just seems strange that kids are out this late. Maybe I’m just to used to a normal schedule…

  16. NineInchNachosII says:

    didn’t this just happen to a marysville wa police officer’s child too?

  17. serendipity says:

    God Bless America and the NRA! Isn’t it odd Heston was in a movie about The Bible and was a major NRA dude? I forget the portions where Jesus ran around shooting people. I guess I need to go back to church camp and get my Bible on.

  18. The adults leave 2 toddlers in a car at 12:30 in the morning ? i know, lets set up a memorial fund to help this mom recover and make more babies. WTF !

  19. Lynnwoodfats says:

    Isn’t it illegal to have a loaded firearm in your car?

  20. benderbrodriguez says:

    These are NOT accidents. An accident is unavoidable. Every one of these shootings could have been avoided with the use of some common sense.

  21. itwasntmethistime says:

    Oh geez. I’m going to go through the cars and house tonight to see what potentially harmful items I need to secure. I don’t have any guns, but I know there is a sharp utility knife in my glovebox and a lighter in the drawer where we keep the birthday candles.

    Is this the fallout from the efforts to make everything completely safe? We’re not scared to wreck our cars anymore because of seatbelts and airbags. Ride a bike any way you like because your helmet will protect you. Every item manufactured for children has to be completely risk-free to protect from idiot parents. I think people no longer have it in them to watch out for their selves and their children because it’s mostly being done for us. Why else would a grown man set a loaded gun down right in front of a 3 year old boy?

  22. narrowsview says:

    Well, serendipity wins the tasteless comment award here.

  23. psycodug says:

    A CCW allows a person to carry a firearm. That means the firearm has to be “ON YOUR PERSON” it means you are carrying the weapon and you are constantly in charge of that weapon. To leave a loaded weapon unsecured in the presence of children is highly irresponsible and obvious consequences result. The decision to leave the weapon in the vehicle while pumping gas seems unreasonable to me and makes no sense. Why did he not notice the child moving in the direction of the firearm if he was right next to the vehicle pumping gas. Why have a CCW if you are not serious about it. A fearful insecure person with a firearm will not respond appropriately in a tense situation and should just stay home at night relying on Police.
    Carrying a firearm does not generate anything within a person that is not already there. If you are carrying a firearm because you are a fearful person, please STOP !! Get a firearm education and constantly practice safety.

  24. Those kids should have been home in bed not out driving around with their mother’s precious boyfriend at all hours of the night. Then she leaves them alone in the car….in a gas station in Tacoma…..with a loaded handgun…..Some people just have to learn things the hard way. Or do they ever learn?

  25. Just sad that these things happen

  26. gowenray says:

    It’s a sad commentary on our society that gun sales are so prevelant. It’s an even greater reflection on our social makeup when so many capable of being concealed weapons (handguns) are being purchased by people who’s self-image need for protection continue to create more injury to the innocent rather than the criminal element.
    I’m still waiting for the day the bloated treasury of the Right to Bear Arms bunch show some results on self-policing to keep handguns out of the hands of the irresponsible instead of spending most of it on keeping legislators in their corner to expand the market and make handguns easier to possess.

  27. cclngthr says:

    1. I was ORDERED to bed at 7 PM when I was at that age. Kids have no business being up at that hour.

    2. If a person has a CCW, and choose to carry, they carry it at all times. If they don’t carry it, it is secured. This weapon was unsecured.

  28. itwasntmethistime says:

    Bandito — There are a lot of plausible reasons the kids could have been out that late. Maybe Mom or Boyfriend had to pick up the other from work. You’d be screaming worse if he left the kids at home by themselves instead of taking them along. And they weren’t abandoned in the car all by themselves. Boyfriend was outside the car, pumping gas. When I pump gas I leave my kids in the car rather than making them stand next to me outside, and I’ll bet the rest of you do as well.

    The issue isn’t that the kids were unsupervised (which they weren’t,) it’s that Boyfriend set a loaded gun down within reach.

  29. mojjonation says:

    I am completely amazed that no one has come along and blamed the president for this. Isn’t he supposed to be the supreme ruler and commander of all? Shouldn’t he have direct and lone oversight on anything and everything pertaining to the american public? Note to all knuckleheads, that was sarcasm. Where and what time this happened is irrelevant. Focus on the real issue of poor weapon security. If someone is locked onto what time this happened and where it happened as opposed to why it happened, I think you need to reassess your priorities.

    When Obama was elected, gun sales went through the roof with false claims that everyone was going to lose their gun rights with him in office. Not one word has been put forth about the restricting of firearm ownership or anything else to do with gun laws. More lemmings running for the cliff. Just jump off already. Those who remain grounded and focused on what needs to be done will still be here.

  30. lovethemountains says:

    It is so difficult, with my mind set at least, to understand how anyone can consider leaving a loaded and unsecured firearm in a vehicle or anywhere when children are present and have access to the firearm. I was raised in a very rural area with guns in the home all the time but my father kept them in his locked cabinet. From a very early age he would take me out on our 320 acres and target practice, all the while talking to me and showing me the dangers of mishandling a firearm. I am a staunch supporter of the 2nd Amendment but it is time we start charging individuals who leave their firearm where a child can get to it and it results in death like this. It seems to me such carelessness would fit the charge of Negligent Homicide.

  31. guidocarmasi says:

    I guess the question is what can the public do to prevent these things from happening?

    12:30 AM
    Single parent
    Gun loading Boy friend
    Out of State.
    3 year old can get out of car seat?
    two children out and about?

  32. salmonhead says:

    So many crappy parents. Very sad

  33. Wow…anti-gun zealots are out in force. How many times does something like this happen? Parents leaving the keys in the car or the car running with the kids in the car. I see this almost daily. The car is more deadly than the gun and more common-place.

    Where’s the anti-car advocacy? There isn’t any. The reason? Everyone knows that the parents are the issue. This doesn’t change with blenders, gas ranges, or even guns. Stupidity breeds accidents. That’s what this was. It is stupid because it was avoidable.

    So, how do you all respond. Let’s see…blame Christians. Blame Obama. Blame Charleton Heston. Blame the NRA. Blame the 2nd Amendment. Blame the time of day.

    All of these cases (Stanwood – police officer’s kid) center on someone doing something stupid. Not thinking. Letting their guard down for a moment. Just like tossing back a few drinks after work and driving home. Stupid.

    Get over the gun issue and focus on the decisions by those in control of the situation.

  34. WonTonsInMySoup says:

    BAndito, what was the emphasis on “in a gas station in Tacoma” for? hahaha.Blame it on Tacoma, nothing else matters.

  35. alindasue says:

    cclngthr said, “I was ORDERED to bed at 7 PM when I was at that age. Kids have no business being up at that hour.”

    For some families 7:00pm bed time is normal. Personally, I think it is strange to go to bed that early, but that’s how my family’s schedule has always been. 7-8:00pm (when everyone is finally home) is dinner time.

    As itwasntmethistime pointed out, there are lots of legitimate reasons those children could have been up that late – not the least of which is picking up a parent up from work.

    The only “bad parenting” issue I see with this incident (as reported) at all is the loaded gun left in the car.

  36. commoncents says:

    How about focusing on the simple fact that just because you have a CWP doesn’t mean you are a responsible gun owner. Perhaps this gentleman thought of himself as one too…until he had an utterly horrible lapse in judgement that proved otherwise. Not calling it a mistake. Not calling for a ban on guns. Not saying he is an irresponsible parent for having the kids out at that hour. Simply saying there but for the grace of God go I. Taking note and making sure that my own guard isn’t let down for a fatal moment and I don’t even own a gun.

    Too many fingerpointing individuals out there on both sides…trying to assign blame instead of making sure the same thing never happens to them. And I’m sorry, saying I’m too smart or responsible for that simply tells me that you’re just lucky.

  37. Anytime a life is extinguished people hurt. I don’t know these people, but I hurt just the same. I don’t blame guns or pass judgement on the gun owners or the victims. I am really sorry for this loss. It’s a cop out to lash out at guns….or parents/guardians… or kids that get out of car seats for that matter. I just wish our society would start recognizing and rewarding people who live responsibly, who put others ahead of themselves and who make this world a better place for all to live. You never hear about them on the news… only the tragic situations… I guess we are what we eat (or are fed)

  38. narrowsview says:

    Well put GeeMan, but you left out blaming the car-seat manufacturer.

    We call it SPSA at work – Safe Performance Self Assessment; before you perform a task, consider the possible consequences if something goes wrong and plan accordingly. Just a few moments of consideration by Boyfriend prior to putting the gun under the seat could have prevented this horrible tragedy.

  39. Maverick2009 says:

    So sad. I really feel for the boys’ father. You can’t control what kind of ding bat your ex dates, unfortunately.

  40. It’s also very difficult to picture this whole scenario: The 3 year old getting out of his car seat and having the wherewithal go under the drivers seat to get the hand gun (he must have known what he was looking for) and play with it long enough to shoot himself in the head. All the while the boyfriend who is responsible for the security of that handgun and the safety of those babies (during the time that the mother is in inside the convenience store) doesn’t notice what’s going on.

  41. alindasue,
    I grew up in a time that meant nighttime was for sleeping, which is still the standard for our internal body clock. I was ordered to bed by responsible parents.

    Regardless of the situation, why couldn’t one of the parents stay home WITH the kids and have the other do business during that hour? I pick up my friend from work at 11 PM because his girlfriend has a son who is in bed at a normal time because he is in school; plus he takes meds to allow him to sleep (Clonidine). She asks me to pick him up so she can stay home with the child. Normal people here.

  42. Such a sad, sad story all around. But just remember the mantra of the NRA: “Guns don’t kill people!”.

  43. We need laws on the books stating guns need to be properly stored, to many young children getting their hands on them. Let’s start holding people responsible.

  44. Tacjam…such laws are already “on the books.” The latter part of your post is what isn’t done. Unfortunately, no one wants to charge the parents in these “crimes” or violations of the existing laws. I suppose there is some sort of leniency that comes when their stupidity results in a loss of life. Nothing helps Prosecutor’s re-election campaign better than sending stupid parents to prison when tragedies like this occur.

  45. Although not stated in the article, it is presumed this was a pistol, not a revolver. If so, it can be ‘loaded’ (cartridges in the clip), but not have a cartridge in the chamber and ready to fire with the simple pulling of the trigger. It would have remained fairly ‘child safe’ if a cartridge weren’t chambered as the physical effort (let alone the knowledge) to move the slide and chamber a cartridge from the magazine would have been beyond the capability of a 3 year old. Leaving a pistol unattended with a chambered round is the biggest failure seen here…beyond that of the owner not taking the firearm with him as he exited the vehicle as required by his CCW and firearm safety common sense.

  46. tck512,

    Just a point of clarification – revolvers ARE pistols. But, yes, I agree with your points. I’d imagine that this was a Glock or some other hammerless pistol. No three year old could pull the trigger on that required the hammer to be extended.

    I carry a semi-auto with a hammer, round chambered, safety on. Protects me from mistakes on a draw.I carry it on me at all times. If I can’t take it into a building, I don’t go into that building…or I just don’t bring the weapon with me.

    It doesn’t sit unattended in vehicle. I don’t want some opportunist thief to find a “bonus” while rifling through for valuables.

  47. footballscaa says:

    navguy, karma will find your dumbass one day soon.

  48. GeeMan,
    State and federal laws already exist which require the licensed gun owner to secure the weapon in environments which it should be secured. Secured can be interpreted as locked in a glove box or locked cabinet.

    The only time I chamber a round in my semiauto pistol is if I’m going to use it. It prevents accidental discharge of the weapon. An extra step, but it can be done quick enough to fire it if necessary.

    A revolver on the other hand is generally ready to shoot when loaded, particularly if it is a double-action.

  49. Here is another idea. Everything I could say about this tragedy has already been said in this column, repeatedly.

    How about this idea…I watch people pump gas into their cars all day, every day. The absolute careless, inattentive, distracted way that people treat highly flammable, hazardous material makes me wonder why there aren’t more catastrophic fires in gas stations….What if the State of Washington (as well as the rest of the country) adopt Oregon’s law where self serve gas is illegal. Jobs are provided for trained attendants, so careless people can stay inside their cars where they belong. IF that were the case here, this tragedy might never have happened.

    I know, I know. That comment will be taken off topic and not taken seriously or berated at least by mindless nits who dont get the point.

  50. BlaineCGarver says:

    If the Carry Permit was from OR, it is not legal in this state. BTW, IMO, the reason kids mess with guns is that they don’t know their parents have them, and they think it’s a toy. Two or Three is not too old to explain what a real gun is and what it can do. That said, it’s really stupid to let kids have access to firearms except under supervision. Back in the old days (I know, I know) all us kids had BB guns, and .22s….this crap never happened like it does today.

  51. notimetobleed says:

    The problem is we do not have tough enough laws on the books that allow us to punish stupid gun owners they way they should be punished.

  52. commoncents says:

    DCR absolutely nothing wrong with that requirement. Not only would it likely have saved this kid’s life but prevent a lot of damage to pumps, vehicles, and the environment. Roll the tax back 8 cent/gallon and require that the station pump the gas.

    You’re right…people will complain that they can pump their own gas. And they can. But should they?

    There are a few full service gas stations around. They always seem to do just fine financially.

  53. ccIngthr,

    As a law-abiding, Conceal-Carry gun owner, I am fully aware and in compliance of the law. Thank you very much.

    R.C.W. 9.41.050
    Carrying firearms.
    (1)(a) Except in the person’s place of abode or fixed place of business, a person shall not carry a pistol concealed on his or her person without a license to carry a concealed pistol.

    (b) Every licensee shall have his or her concealed pistol license in his or her immediate possession at all times that he or she is required by this section to have a concealed pistol license and shall display the same upon demand to any police officer or to any other person when and if required by law to do so. Any violation of this subsection (1)(b) shall be a class 1 civil infraction under chapter 7.80 RCW and shall be punished accordingly pursuant to chapter 7.80 RCW and the infraction rules for courts of limited jurisdiction.

    (2)(a) A person shall not carry or place a loaded pistol in any vehicle unless the person has a license to carry a concealed pistol and: (i) The pistol is on the licensee’s person, (ii) the licensee is within the vehicle at all times that the pistol is there, or (iii) the licensee is away from the vehicle and the pistol is locked within the vehicle and concealed from view from outside the vehicle.

    (b) A violation of this subsection is a misdemeanor.

    (3)(a) A person at least eighteen years of age who is in possession of an unloaded pistol shall not leave the unloaded pistol in a vehicle unless the unloaded pistol is locked within the vehicle and concealed from view from outside the vehicle.

    (b) A violation of this subsection is a misdemeanor.

  54. dedanann says:

    Actually you are not required to have the weapon on your person at all times. You can conceal it in your car and lock the car, not usually very smart but very legal. In Washington it is a CPL not a CWP. Firearms are successfully used about a million times a year in defense of self, property or others, usually without firing the weapon. About half of these incidents are repelling intruders trying to break into the owners residence. So many myths are spread by hoplophobes about the evils of guns. The problem is idiots and criminals, not guns.

  55. Chippert says:

    dedanann: can you substantiate your claim to the million times a year numbers?

  56. Crazy people, criminals and idiots should not have access to firearms. The constitution allows, to some degree, for restricting access for the first two. But what are you gonna do about the third group?

  57. rubiegrae792 says:

    This isn’t even the first time something like this has happened – there have been a string of tragedies recently.

    Accountability needs to be held at a higher standard.

  58. ezell_family says:

    The boyfriend CHOSE to not have his concealed weapon unloaded and secured if not physically on his person. This was not the NRA’s fault, the gun’s fault, Tacoma’s fault, the state of Washington’s fault or anyone who has ever owned a gun’s fault! Fault was on the boyfriend who CHOSE to leave his weapon loaded and in the reach of a child AND on the mother, who did not require her two children to be supervised around a gun.

    I own guns, almost everyone I know owns guns, but we are responsible with them at all times and follow the law and common freaking sense!


    Have one in my Tacoma, I recommend this to every gun owner which carries a gun in his vehicle.

  60. thebestofthebest says:

    poor little boy…

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