Toddler Discovers Firearm in Mother’s Bag, Accidentally Shoots Younger Sibling to Death

In the tragic aftermath of her 2-year-old’s death within a hospital room, an Indiana mother is under investigation by authorities who claim she reported that her 3-year-old son discovered a firearm in her purse. According to the mother’s account, the toddler accidentally shot his younger brother in what law enforcement is treating as a case of child-involved shooting due to an unsecured firearm.

As of now, no charges have been filed, as confirmed by Commander Samuel Roberts from the Gary Police Department in an interview with PEOPLE. The incident unfolded when Northlake Methodist Hospital received a distress call shortly before 7:30 p.m. on a Friday. The Lake County Prosecutor’s Homicide Task Force is actively investigating the matter, and Commander Roberts mentions that his officers will present their findings to prosecutors once the inquiry concludes.

The identities of the mother and her minor children remain undisclosed. According to Roberts, the mother informed officers at the Gary hospital that her 3-year-old found the gun she kept in her purse while she briefly left him in a bedroom.

Following the interview with the mother, the police secured the scene at the residence located on the 2100 block of Georgia Street in Gary. Gun storage safety is a critical concern highlighted by this incident. More than 50% of U.S. gun owners, as per a Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health survey, fail to securely store their firearms.

The Indiana State Police have disseminated firearm safety information, advising gun owners to securely store their “unloaded” guns separate from ammunition. In response to the incident, the Gary Police Department emphasized in a Facebook post and subsequent press release to PEOPLE the importance of gun owners using a gun box or lock for secure firearm storage. Commander Roberts stressed the recklessness of carrying a gun in a purse without a holster, citing the potential for objects in the purse to impact the trigger. He noted that certain purses come equipped with built-in holsters, providing a safer option.

Highlighting the broader issue, the Gun Violence Archive has recorded 1,399 accidental shootings this year, with three additional incidents reported since the Gary incident in Savannah, N.Y., San Antonio, TX, and Chicago, Ill.

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