LAKELAND, Fla. – A 3-year-old boy accidentally shot his 2-year-old sister after finding a gun that had been hidden between sofa cushions by a family friend, Florida authorities said Saturday.
The girl was in “exceptionally" critical condition, said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd at a news conference.
After the girl was shot, three men in the home at the time scooped up the children and jumped in a car to drive to a hospital. On their way, they got into a crash with another vehicle, causing several injuries. The girl and one of the adults was taken to the hospital by a good Samaritan who had stopped to offer assistance after the crash, Judd said.
“It can’t be stressed enough, if you have firearms in your home, keep them away from children,” Judd said. “A beautiful little girl is fighting for her life right now because another child who didn’t know any better was able to get his hands on a loaded gun.”
The gun was brought into the Lakeland, Florida, home by one of three men who had gathered Friday night to watch TV, authorities said.
Kevonte' Wilson, 23, told investigators he had placed the gun between sofa cushions so that it would be hidden from the children. He was arrested on charges of failing to safely store a firearm, carrying a concealed firearm and possession of marijuana. He could face other counts, Judd said.
The home's owner, Chad Berrien, 24, was charged with possession of marijuana and maintaining a house for drug use, the sheriff said.
Judd said a Florida crime victim's privacy law prevented him from saying how the children were related to the adults in the home. An online court docket showed no cases for either Wilson or Berrien on Saturday, so it was unknown if they had attorneys who could comment.
Judd said everyone was cooperating with detectives.
The boy was taken by the Department of Children and Families and placed in the home of his grandmother.
“There was no reason to think that this was an intentional act," Judd said. “He was a baby playing with what he saw as some kind of toy."