The mother of a 1-year-old girl shot in the face by her 2-year-old brother faces a cruelty to juveniles count in a case of accidental shooting involving youngsters that's become all too frequent in Baton Rouge.
Crystal Kinchen, 23, of Baton Rouge, was booked into Parish Prison after her toddler son shot her infant daughter while they sat in a friend's car around 7 p.m. Tuesday in a strip mall parking lot on North Foster Drive.
The 1-year-old girl remained in serious condition Wednesday at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, said Sgt. L'Jean McKneely, a Baton Rouge police spokesman.
The accidental shooting is the latest in a chronic rash of similar tragedies in Baton Rouge, where children accidentally shoot each other at among the highest rates in the nation.
A recent analysis of accidental shootings involving children between January 2014 and June of this year by the Associated Press and USA Today found that Louisiana — with a rate of nearly three times the national average — trailed only sparsely populated Alaska for the rate of such incidents.
No other city in the Deep South had as many accidental shootings involving children as Baton Rouge over that period.
Kinchen told police she was preoccupied with her cellphone while sitting with her children in a friend's car in the parking lot of a Family Dollar on North Foster when the 2-year-old child apparently found the loaded handgun wedged between the driver's seat and the center console, a Baton Rouge police report says.
The gunshot sounded like a firecracker, Kinchen said, according to the report. But her friend quickly found her daughter on the backseat floor suffering from a gunshot wound.
Kinchen's friend, who owns the handgun, was questioned but wasn't arrested, McKneely confirmed. The weapon was legally owned and kept in the vehicle.
McKneely said it's unclear whether Kinchen knew the gun was in the car, but police believe her inattention — and her failure to secure either child with a seat belt or in a car seat — contributed to the accidental shooting.
The report says the way the gun was jammed in next to the driver's seat meant the toddler only could have reached it while the driver, who owns the gun, was not in the car. Kinchen, who was in the front passenger seat, was alone in the car with her children.
The friend sped the family to Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center after the shooting rather than wait for EMS, McKneely told The Advocate Tuesday night. Detectives met Kinchen and her friend at the hospital and escorted them to a police station for questioning, according to the police report.
Kinchen said she called the friend for a ride to a relative's house after getting in a fight with her boyfriend, the report says. They stopped for gas before pulling into the Family Dollar parking lot.
Kinchen's friend told police he'd been out of the car for about 4 or 5 seconds before hearing the gunshot.
No one answered the door at Kinchen's apartment on Prescott Road when a reporter visited Wednesday afternoon. Attempts to reach relatives weren't successful.
A spokeswoman for the state Department of Children and Family Services, which investigates reports of child abuse and neglect, said she couldn't yet provide information about the case Wednesday evening or whether the family had previous contact with the agency.
Kinchen remained in jail Wednesday evening in lieu of $15,000 bail.