A father was making lunch for his children in their Baker home Wednesday when the day turned tragic: A gun, recently purchased for protection, somehow landed in the hands of a curious toddler, who pulled the trigger before anyone could intervene.
The child was pronounced dead when medics arrived on the scene, responding to reports of an accidental shooting in a quiet Baker subdivision. He was 3 years old.
Baker Police Chief Carl Dunn said detectives took the father into custody for an interview. He stressed the importance of keeping guns locked up if children are present.
"This appears to be a tragic accident," he said during remarks to media on the scene. "Little boys and girls are curious, and tragic things like this can happen."
The shooting was reported around 11:30 a.m. in the 4400 block of Breckenridge Drive, which is a subdivision off Harding Street near Baker Heights Elementary School.
Dunn said the gun involved was a semiautomatic pistol. He was unable to provide additional details about what happened, including how many shots were fired, if the gun was loaded before the child found it and whether any other children were playing with it before the shooting occurred.
There were two other children present at the time. The dad was the only adult in the house and was in another room cooking, Dunn said.
It isn't clear whether he could face charges. Though relatively rare in such cases, local law enforcement will sometimes pursue charges against adults if it's believed guns were improperly stored in the presence of children.
In this case, the father had recently purchased the gun for protection against potential burglars, said his cousin Kedron Haynes, who rushed to Breckenridge Drive after receiving news of the shooting Wednesday afternoon. He was hanging out behind the police tape waiting for detectives to finish their investigation and open the scene.
Haynes said he and his cousin had started recording music together, using the garage on Breckenridge Drive as their studio. He said his cousin was concerned about protecting his house and the recording equipment, one reason he bought a firearm.
"With the snap of a finger, you turn your head one time and anything can happen," Haynes said, shaking his head sadly in disbelief. "With this situation, it hurts."
Haynes said the child was your typical toddler, curious and active, trying out new words and always being nosy. He was the middle child of three brothers.
Without detracting from the tragedy facing this family, the Baker police chief emphasized that such incidents are preventable. Dunn said his department gives out gun locks for free. He promised to deliver them to anyone who wants one.
"I believe in gun ownership. I grew up hunting and fishing," Dunn said. "But as parents, we need to be responsible. … Please, please make your house as safe as possible."