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.
“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.
News 8 later learned from a story by ABC 7 in Chicago that Thomas underwent surgery for nerve damage. She was shot through the seat of the car. The bullet went through her shoulder and out the windshield of the car.
The boyfriend, Menzo Brazier, was later charged with child endangerment.
The children were placed in the custody of the Indiana Department of Child Services.
-AP contributed to this story.