A 2-year-old boy fatally shot her 29-year-old mother at a Wal-Mart in northern Idaho in what is being called a tragic accident.
Authorities say the boy had reached into the purse of his mother, Veronica Rutledge, and grabbed her concealed gun, which fired and struck Rutledge. She had been shopping with the boy and her three other children, according to the Associated Press.
Rutledge was employed at the Idaho National Laboratory, according to a local newspaper, an agency that supports the U.S. Department of Energy in the area of nuclear and energy research. She had a legal concealed weapons permit.
The young child was sitting in a shopping cart when he reached into his mother’s purse at around 10:20 a.m. on Tuesday and grabbed the small-caliber handgun. She was dead at the scene when police arrived, according to the report.
Rutledge’s father-in-law described her as a “beautiful, young, loving mother,” according to the AP, and she was “not the least bit irresponsible.”
Rutledge’s husband was not at the store during the incident, and he arrived shortly after the woman had been shot. The children were taken to a relative’s house, according to the report.
The shooting happened at a Wal-Mart in Hayden, which is about 40 miles northeast of Spokane, Washington. The incident prompted the store to close for the day, and Wal-Mart issued a statement calling the shooting a “very sad and tragic accident.” The company pledged to work with police to investigate the incident.
It isn’t the first time there has been a tragedy involving a young child and a gun this year in the United States. In neighboring Washington state last month, a 3-year-old boy seriously injured himself when he accidentally fired a gun in a home about 30 miles north of Seattle. And in April, a 2-year-old boy killed his 11-year-old sister while they played with a gun in a home in Philadelphia.
Hayden is a small, conservative town with just 9,000 residents that sits in the northern portion of the state of Idaho. State lawmakers had recently passed legislation that would allow concealed weapons on the campuses of colleges and universities, although it banned guns in dormitories or buildings that can hold more than 1,000 people.