Rock Hill 2-year-old finds loaded gun, shoots grandmother in back

Capt. Mark Bollinger, a Rock Hill Police spokesman, talks about the shooting.
Capt. Mark Bollinger, a Rock Hill Police spokesman, talks about the shooting. tkulmala@heraldonline.com

A 2-year-old Rock Hill boy accidentally shot his grandmother, police say, after he found a loaded .357 revolver in the car they were riding in and pulled the trigger.

The shooting happened just after 1 p.m. Sunday as the car passed through the intersection of Ogden Road and Heckle Boulevard in southern Rock Hill, police records show. The 40-year-old victim told officers she heard the gun go off and realized she had been shot in the back.

When the boy’s great-aunt, who was driving the car, turned around to see what had happened, she told police, the boy “had the gun in both hands and began to cry.”

Capt. Mark Bollinger, spokesman for the Rock Hill Police Department, said the great-aunt is the legal owner of the gun.

Before the shooting, the boy’s relatives had picked him up from another family member’s home, according to police. The gun had been left in a pouch on the back of the car’s passenger seat.

“We’re still trying to figure out how the child pulled the trigger,” Bollinger said, adding that the boy was wearing a seat belt but was not in a car-seat.

After the shooting, the police report states, the boy’s great-aunt drove the car to a family member’s home on nearby Stanley Drive. The boy’s grandmother was treated at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte with non-life threatening injuries, Bollinger said.

A woman at the Stanley Drive home declined to speak with a reporter on Monday.

Investigators will consult with the 16th Circuit Solicitor’s Office before deciding what charges, if any, are appropriate, officials said. The gun’s owner could face charges for improperly storing the weapon or leaving it in reach of a child, Bollinger said, adding the gun did not have a lock on it.

“We’re encouraging folks, as always, (to) keep your weapons secured,” he said. “Especially around small children.”

In recent years in York and Chester counties, deputies say incidents of children with access to weapons have ended in injuries and death.

In 2004, a 2-year-old was shot in the head and killed when another toddler found a gun on a kitchen table in a Rock Hill home.

In 2011, a 13-year-old was sentenced to 10 months in juvenile prison after shooting his younger cousin in the face, causing the victim to lose an eye.

Teddy Kulmala: 803-329-4082, @teddy_kulmala

Gun safety tips

▪ Keep the firearm’s muzzle pointed in a safe direction so that if an accidental discharge occurred, it would not result in injury.

▪ Do not touch a gun’s trigger unless you intend to shoot.

▪ Firearms should be unloaded when not in use, or when in storage.

▪ Know how the gun operates: read the manual and know how to safely remove any ammunition.

▪ Store firearms in a locked cabinet, safe, gun vault or storage case, ensuring weapons are not accessible by children and cannot be handled without your permission. Store ammunition away from firearms.

▪ Use gun locks as additional safety – not as a substitute to secure storage.

▪ Make sure children and other adults in your home are aware of and understand gun safety.

▪ Unload, clean and place guns in secure storage immediately after returning from a hunting trip or a day at the range.

Source: National Shooting Sports Foundation