HAYDEN, Idaho (AP) – A 2-year-old boy accidentally shot and killed his mother after he reached into her purse at a northern Idaho Wal-Mart and her concealed gun fired, authorities said Tuesday.
Veronica J Rutledge, 29, was shopping with her son and three other children, Kootenai County sheriff’s spokesman Stu Miller told The Associated Press. Rutledge was from Blackfoot in southeastern Idaho, and her family had come to the area to visit relatives.
Rutledge had a concealed weapons permit. Miller said the young boy was left in a shopping cart, reached into his mother’s purse and grabbed a small-calibre handgun, which discharged one time.
Deputies who responded to the Wal-Mart found Rutledge dead, the sheriff’s office said.
The victim’s father-in-law, Terry Rutledge, told The Associated Press that Veronica Rutledge “was a beautiful, young, loving mother”.
“She was not the least bit irresponsible,” Terry Rutledge said. “She was taken much too soon.”
Rutledge’s husband was not in the store when the shooting happened at about 10.20am Miller said the man arrived shortly after the shooting. All the children were taken to a relative’s house.
The shooting occurred in the Wal-Mart in Hay-den, Idaho, a town about 40 miles (64 kilometres) northeast of Spokane, Washington state. The store closed and was not expected to reopen until Wednesday morning.
Brooke Buchanan, a spokeswoman for Wal-Mart, said in a statement the shooting was a “very sad and tragic accident”.
“We are working closely with the local sheriff’s department while they investigate what happened,” Buchanan said.
There do not appear to be reliable national statistics about the number of accidental fatalities involving children handling guns.
In neighbouring Washington state, a 3-year-old boy was seriously injured in November when he accidentally shot himself in the face in a home in Lake Stevens, about 30 miles (50 kilometres) north of Seattle.