Infant fatally shot by 5-year-old brother in Missouri

Reuters / Jim Young
A nine-month-old boy was fatally shot on Monday by his five year-old brother in northwest Missouri. Police suspect the child found a .22 caliber magnum revolver lying in the house.

According to the Nodaway County Sheriff’s Office, the children’s mother initially reported that her five-year-old son had shot her infant in the head with a paintball gun. Though it was determined upon the arrival of an ambulance and law enforcement to the location that the infant had been shot with a .22 caliber magnum revolver.

A Life Net Air Ambulance took the infant to Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, where he was pronounced dead upon arrival.

A neighbor said the mother of the children, Alexis Widerholt, and her four sons were staying with the children’s grandfather in Elmo, Missouri, near the Iowa border.

The five-year-old boy, the eldest of four brothers, found his grandfather’s revolver in a shelf built into a headboard in the master bedroom, Nodaway County Sheriff Darren White told The Washington Post.

The infant was in a crib in the same room when the loaded gun went off.

“It was just lying out,” White said. “Little kids are curious. It was in the headboard of the bed, and he found it.”

White told The Post that when the gun went off, Widerholt left the kitchen for the living room to find three of her sons, ages five, three, and one-and-a-half. One of the boys was playing with a paintball gun, thus the mother first reported the baby was shot with the fake firearm, White said.

Kathy Armentrout, who lives next door, said the woman and the boys were alone at the time of the incident. She rushed the three older children from the house to her own.

“They’re not very old so they have no clue what was happening, you know,” she told WDAF.

“They’re a very good family and this was a tragedy. It’s a sad deal. I just hope everybody prays for them,” she added.

While the investigation is ongoing, White said he believed the shooting was an accident.

Nevertheless, White told WDAF he had contacted the county prosecutor, who will put together a child fatality review board of law enforcement, children’s services, and hospital staff to decide if charges should be filed against the parents.

“We live in a rural part of the country where firearms are very common and standard, so we pretty much assume that in about every home that we go into, there are firearms there,” White said. “We work off the assumption that everyone that we meet has a firearm sometimes, and that’s okay because it’s legal.”

A recent study estimated that over 10,000 children under the age of 18 were shot in the US in 2009, and at least one third died. There were 7,391 hospitalizations of children and adolescents (89 percent of them males) with gunshots that year (in 2008 there were from 6,496 such hospitalizations). Of those, 453 (6 percent) died in hospitals.

Though it was not the subject of research, the team at the Yale School of Medicine also said that in 2009, approximately 3,000 additional children died from gun injuries at the scene or were pronounced dead upon arrival at a hospital.

Overall calculations revealed over 28 kids getting shot in America on a daily basis.

“Most people are very safe with (guns) and this was just one of those cases where everything went together in the wrong way,” Sheriff White told KETV.