No charges have been filed in the Gary, Ind., shooting
As her 2-year-old lay dead in a hospital room, police allege an Indiana mother told authorities that her 3-year-old son had found a gun in her purse and accidentally fatally shot his toddler brother in what police are investigating as a child shooting with an unsecured firearm.
No charges have been filed at this time, Commander Samuel Roberts of the Gary Police Department tells PEOPLE in an interview.
The case — which began with a call from Northlake Methodist Hospital shortly before 7:30 p.m. Friday — remains under investigation by the Lake County Prosecutor’s Homicide Task Force, according to Roberts, who adds that his officers will submit their findings to prosecutors following the conclusion of what remains an active investigation.
The names of the mother and her minor children have not been released.
At the Gary hospital, the mother told officers that her 3-year-old son happened upon the gun she kept in her purse after she left him in a bedroom and walked out, Roberts alleges.
Following their interview with the mother, police secured the scene at the home on the 2100 block of Georgia Street in Gary.
More than half of U.S. gun owners do not safely store their firearms, according to a survey by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Gun storage safety, which is often a factor in accidental shootings among children, has not been extensively quantified, and the 2018 survey was believed to be the first nationally representative sample examining the issue in 15 years.
The Indiana State Police have published bulleted firearm safety information, which reminds gun owners to keep their “unloaded” gun safely secured “separate from the ammunition.”
In a Facebook post relaying the ongoing police investigation and in a subsequent emailed press release to PEOPLE, the Gary Police Department emphasized the importance of gun owners securing their firearms “in a gun box or with a gun lock.”
“A gun in a purse – that is not in a holster – is very reckless,” Roberts tells PEOPLE. “Because anything in the purse might strike the trigger.” The police commander adds that guns can be safely carried in a purse if “the purse has a holster built-in, which some do.”
For more information on safe firearm storage and the most effective ways to protect children from unsecured firearms, visit BeSMARTforkids.org.
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