Victoria Rutledge, 29, was fatally shot by her toddler son while shopping at Walmart with other customers. The incident took place in Hayden, Idaho, in the electronics section at the store.
Hayden is located north of Coer d’Alene and about 40 miles away from Spokane. Rutledge was a resident of Blackfoot, Idaho visiting her relatives during a holiday break.
The toddler, Rutledge, and other relatives were customers in Walmart’s electronics section at the time of the shooting. From surveillance footage and witness interviews, police determined that Rutledge’s two-year-old son was sitting in the shopping cart near her purse. In its statement, the Kottenai County Sheriff’s Office reported that the toddler reached into her purse and accidentally discharged the weapon.
By the time they arrived at the Hayden Walmart, Rutledge was already dead. A preliminary investigation and family member notifications were completed before the police revealed the identity of the deceased on their Twitter and Facebook pages.
With the current controversy about customers visiting retail establishments like Walmart while armed, police also addressed whether Rutledge was carrying an authorized weapon in the Walmart. It was determined that she held a valid concealed carry permit and keeping the gun in her purse was permissible under Idaho law.
Accidental shootings by children are widely reported in the United States. High publicity cases, such as the one involving the nine-year-old who shot her shooting instructor with an Uzi, receive wide public scrutiny and emotional conclusions. However, the data on these accidental shootings has never been tracked consistently, making it impossible to describe these events as an epidemic.
No one knows for sure how many accidental shootings involve child perpetrators. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracks gun deaths, both intentional and accidental, but does not record the age of the person who pulls the trigger. A system tracking these trends is only available in 18 states at this time which is not enough to determine national rates for these incidents.
In the latest statistics, the CDC reported 591 accidental shootings in 2011. Many accidental deaths involve children shooting themselves or another child. There are no statistics on how often children accidentally shoot adults.
Seven percent of adults in Idaho, around 85,500 people, had concealed carry permits at the end of 2012. Unless a retail establishments or restaurant specifically prohibits firearms, anyone with a concealed carry permit can bring their handgun into the establishment. Idaho is third nationally in the number of these permits issued to citizens.
Idaho also recognizes concealed carry permits from other states as long as the individual keeps their permit with them. People without a concealed carry permit can still carry a firearm in public places as long as it is visible, making Idaho one of several open carry states.
In its statement, Walmart described this as a “very sad incident” and indicated that they are thoroughly cooperating with the county sheriff. It will keep the Hayden store closed to customers until Wednesday morning as the police finish their investigation of this accidental shooting. The toddler is currently staying with family members.
By Jocelyn Mackie
Photo by Mike Mozart – Flickr License