3-Year-Old Accidentally Shoots and Kills Mom In Grocery Store Parking Lot, Dad Charged

3-Year-Old Accidentally Shoots and Kills Mom In Grocery Store Parking Lot, Dad Charged

The boy's father who was licensed to own the weapon faces a misdemeanor gun charge.

Another senseless gun tragedy took place outside a grocery store in a family's parked car. A 3-year-old boy accidentally shot and killed his mother over the weekend around 8:30 p.m. in the parking lot of a Food 4 Less store in Dolton, Illinois. While both of the parents' backs were turned, their toddler somehow grabbed hold of a loaded gun. The boy's father Romell Watson, 23, who was licensed to own the weapon is now facing a misdemeanor charge of unlawfully transporting it. The victim has been identified as 22-year-old Dejah Bennet who sat in the driver’s seat when the gun went off in the child's hands and the bullet struck his mother’s back.


"This is as much as we can do to hold this man responsible," Dolton, Ill., Police Chief Robert M. Collins Jr. told PEOPLE about the charges. "Yes, he has to deal with that for the rest of his life. But there's still a level of responsibility that you have to take, and that's why we pushed this particular charge." The father was "completely devastated" by the death of his girlfriend and the boy's mother. "Once this child grows up and discovers what this incident was, how it happened, what would that human be like?" Collins questioned. "Is it better to keep that away from him for his entire life, or is it better to tell him and have him deal with it?"


The case was reviewed by the office of the Cook County State's Attorney where "they didn't believe there was enough evidence against Mr. Watson to warrant a more serious charge, such as reckless homicide," shared Collins. "So they elected not to charge him at all. The fact that this was 100 percent preventable makes it all that much more difficult to deal with. Gun ownership obviously is a right, but what comes with that is accountability and responsibility. Within the last six or seven months, we have had two additional incidents of a child finding a gun, firing the weapon, and somebody getting injured. This happens much more often than people realize, and we need to bring some type of focus to this particular problem. It's enough that people are being shot on the streets, let alone children finding guns and playing with them and firing them," he pointed out.


Dolton trustee and community activist Andrew Holmes distributed 300 gun locks at the Food 4 Less parking lot where the incident took place. Research suggests that accidental shootings by children have risen during the pandemic. Holmes told NBC Chicago, “Children are getting these guns more often now because they roll out from under the seat, or they go in the pouch and pick it up. If you’re going to put them in the car, lock them down.” The boy is currently in the custody of other relatives. “We’re trying to get trauma counseling for [the child] and his family because he’s going to need it the rest of his life,” Holmes said. “That life changed within a second.”


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