MERRILLVILLE, Ind. – A 3-year-old girl found her father’s gun inside a parked car and managed to pull the trigger, accidentally firing a bullet into her pregnant mother, police said.
The shooting happened around 4 p.m. Tuesday in the 300 block of East 81st Avenue in Merrillville, Ind., in the parking lot of Plato’s Closet.
The woman, identified by WMAQ as 21-year-old Shaneque Thomas, was sitting in a white sedan with the 3-year-old girl and a 1-year-old boy while her boyfriend shopped. Thomas was in the front seat when the little girl fired the gun from the back seat, police said.
“What I saw was a lady she was almost about to fall, she was like bleeding out with like a bucket of blood on the ground and I just saw her two kids just standing there,” witness Paloma Prieto said.
Employees of Plato’s Closet heard screaming and ran out to help.
“The boyfriend was inside the store shopping so he ran outside because someone told him that there was a girl bleeding and he was yelling, ‘Did you kill yourself? Did you do this to yourself?’,” said Hadassah Kirkle, a supervisor at Plato’s Closet.
“We grabbed the little boy who was still in the car and we took the little girl from the mom because she was holding her hand and we took them inside and just tried comforting them the best we could,” said Plato’s Closet employee Rebecca Todd.
Detective Sgt. James Bogner said the girl “had no idea what she had done and she was very scared.”
Thomas was transported to Methodist Hospital’s Southlake campus.
She is listed in critical but stable condition.
The father isn’t being named pending formal charges, but police say he was held on suspicion of child endangerment.
The couple had traveled from their home in Michigan City to get pregnancy care at a Planned Parenthood, according to the Times of Northwest Indiana.
The investigation is ongoing.