Negligence charges possible for father and pregnant mother wounded after 3-year-old boy apparently reached for iPad but found loaded weapon
Joanna Walters – 2 February 2015
A toddler in Albuquerque, New Mexico, shot both his parents with just one bullet on Saturday, after apparently reaching in to his mother’s handbag to get her iPad and coming across a loaded gun instead.
The 3-year-old and his 2-year-old sister were taken into the care of local authorities.
Both adults survived the shooting, although the mother remained in the hospital on Sunday for close monitoring because she is eight months pregnant.
The single bullet pierced the father’s buttock and hip and then hit the mother in the shoulder. Police arrived to a chaotic scene at the motel where the family was staying.
On Sunday, a police spokesman for the Albuquerque Police Department criticised the parents for keeping a gun unsecured in the vicinity of two children.
“I can’t tell you why they had a loaded gun next to small children. Where are their priorities? It was lucky nobody got killed,” said officer Simon Drobik.
The couple, who are in their twenties, face charges of criminal neglect of the children.
Drobik said there were also two “huge” pit bull dogs in the cramped motel room with the family when he arrived, as the first officer on the scene.
Police were not naming the couple, prior to any charges being brought. However, after being released from hospital the father spoke to a local television station, KOB-TV, which named him as Justin Reynolds and his girlfriend as Monique Villescas.
“All of a sudden we heard a gun go off and the next thing I realised she was bleeding. And when I sat down on the bed I realised I had been shot too,” Reynolds said.
He said the 2-year-old daughter had been sitting next to the mother when the incident happened, and their son had shot them from behind.
“I called 911 then I grabbed towels to try to stop her bleeding. I was worried because I didn’t know if my son had shot himself. He was shocked, he was crying, it was all traumatising,” Reynolds said.
Drobik said that when he arrived at the motel, the father had called the children’s grandmother and she was trying to comfort the children. The officer moved them to a room next door, then went back to attend to the wounded parents.
“It was a pretty gory scene. She was bleeding a lot,” Drobik said.
Officer Drobik put a tourniquet on the mother’s arm and “she screamed the place down”, he said.
A grand jury will consider charges after detectives now working the case take up the matter with the district attorney’s office.
According to Drobik, the father could face federal charges because he is a convicted felon on probation, which means he is prohibited “from being around a gun or anyone with a gun”.
His girlfriend had apparently bought the 9mm handgun from a pawn shop Saturday morning, hours before the shooting. Drobik said the couple reported that the toddler found the gun in his mother’s handbag, but this account had not been verified and there were no independent witnesses.
“The gun could have been on the counter, or anything,” he said.
Police were waiting to question the young son gently in a special interview room but were unsure what reliable information they would obtain “as he’s only three”, Drobik said.
Earlier reports described the toddler as having reached for an iPod, but Drobik clarified that he understood it to have been an iPad.
The police took possession of the gun after obtaining a warrant to search the motel room. Neither parent had been arrested by Sunday afternoon, pending further investigations. The family resides in Albuquerque and had been living at the motel for the last week for reasons which were not clear, Drobik said.
“The way we look at it, if you are allowed to have a gun you have your second amendment rights,” he said. “But if you are negligent with that gun that’s a different matter. This is about irresponsible gun ownership.”