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Parents charged after 3-year-old accidentally shoots, kills himself

(WJRT)
Published: May. 29, 2020 at 6:10 PM EDT
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(5/29/2020) - A heartbreaking tragedy that could've been prevented.

On May 17th, Flint Police reported a 3-year-old boy accidentally shot and killed himself after finding a gun in his Flint home.

Friday, both of his parents are behind bars charged in their young son's death.

The Genesee County Prosecutor said the gun he got a hold of shouldn't have even been in their home.

David Leyton explained that the toddler's Dad is a convicted felon. When that's the case, he's not allowed to have possession of a gun.

While he wasn't the registered owner, the Prosecutor said just having a gun in his home is illegal.

“It's clearly a case where there's negligent gun ownership, negligent supervision of the gun and tragedies occur when that happens,” Leyton said.

On the evening of May 17th, the Prosecutor said the 3-year-old boy and his 7-year-old sister were sent upstairs to bed. They live on Cadillac Street in Flint.

“The 3-year-old climbed up on the top bunk, where he often sleeps, finds the gun on the bunk bed, takes a hold of it, pulls the trigger,” he explained.

Leyton said when his parents heard the gunshot, they didn't take the time to call 9-1-1. Fearing the worst, the two rushed their son to Hurley Medical Center, where he passed away.

Why was the gun sitting on the boy's bed?

“According to the investigation, Dad had the gun on him and he was up on the bunk bed and the gun fell out of his pocket and it stayed up there,” Leyton explained.

The couple, both 28 years old, are each facing involuntary manslaughter, multiple counts of felony firearm and two different charges of 2nd degree child abuse. One of those is because the boy's sister witnessed the shooting.

“I think it's traumatic for any 7-year-old to witness anything like this,” Leyton said. “Whatever services are necessary are being provided.”

The boy's dad is facing an 8th charge of felon in possession of a weapon.

Police actually found three guns in their home. None of them are registered to the Dad because of his criminal history. But, Leyton said he was "instrumental" in the Mom's selection and purchase of the gun their son got a hold of.

“Dad shouldn't be living in that house if there's going to be a gun there. If Dad's going to live in that house, there shouldn't be any guns there,” Leyton explained.

The boy's parents are each facing a maximum of 15 years in prison.

But, Leyton is working to nearly double that sentence with a new law.

He’s teamed up with the Wayne County Prosecutor to hold parents and guardians responsible for how they store their weapons.

According to Prosecutor Leyton, if passed, it would criminalize the negligent supervision of a firearm in a home.

“The community has to understand that you have to properly store and secure your firearms,” he said. “Otherwise, we're going to continue to have tragedies like this.”

State Representative Don Cherry has agreed to be a sponsor. Leyton is working to secure more.

He said this type of tragedy happens all too often in Genesee County.

According to data gathered by Everytown for Gun Safety, there have been at least 127 unintentional shootings by children this year alone, resulting in 43 deaths and 88 injuries.

Four of those happened in Michigan.

And since 2015, there have been over 1,700 unintentional shootings, resulting in 650 deaths and 1,100 injuries.

According to the Gifford's Law Center, 27 other states have similar child access prevention laws on the books.

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