3 Year-Old Shoots Self In Van

Wednesday, March 14, 2012 - 4:32pm

Boy killed after finding pistol under seat.

A 3-year-old boy is dead after shooting himself with a gun he found under the seat of his family's minivan.

The tragedy occurred early Wednesday morning at a gas station in Tacoma, Washington.

It was the third shooting of a child in western Washington state in just a few weeks.

"It is incredible in light of the other ones," said Tacoma police Officer Naveed Benjamin. "You would think people would take more care, not less."

A couple - a boyfriend and girlfriend - and the woman's two young children were traveling and had stopped at a Tacoma gas station off Interstate 5 at about 12:30 a.m.

The man put his pistol under the seat and got out to pump gas while the boy's mother went inside the convenience store, Benjamin said.

They left her son and her young daughter in the car.

The boy climbed out of his back-seat child seat, found the gun and shot himself in the head, police said.

He was declared dead at a hospital.

The girl was not injured.

Detectives questioned the couple and have called the shooting a tragic accident, Benjamin said.

The investigation was continuing, and it was unclear if the man, who had a concealed weapons permit, would face any charge.

Washington does not have a law specifically concerning child access to firearms.

The family has not been identified.

The shooting follows the death of the 7-year-old daughter of a Marysville police officer in Stanwood on Saturday when a sibling found a gun and fired while the parents were out of their car.

On February 22nd an 8-year-old girl was critically wounded in a Bremerton classroom when a gun fired inside 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. ... It's really not that hard to practice firearm safety."

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