'Just a tragic accident'

Details unfold in accidental shooting

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COEUR d'ALENE - Veronica "Roni" Rutledge's family prefers to remain private when it comes to the media, but after seeing all the criticism of her on social media they wanted to set the record straight.

"We are usually a private family but I decided to talk with press because I felt I owed it to Roni to make sure people realize she was a responsible gun owner," said her father-in-law Terry Rutledge, of Athol.

Roni Rutledge, 29, was accidentally shot to death by her 2-year-old son on Tuesday during a post-Christmas shopping trip at the Hayden Walmart.

According to Kootenai County Sheriff's Lt. Stu Miller, detectives attended Rutledge's autopsy Wednesday and released new details of the shooting.

"Rutledge had been shopping in the Hayden Walmart with her 2-year old son and three other relatives under the age of 11," Miller wrote in a press release. "While her son was seated in the shopping cart and Rutledge was within a few feet of the cart, her son accessed Rutledge's concealed 9mm Smith and Wesson M&P Shield semi-automatic handgun from her purse."

Miller said the purse was specifically designed for concealed carry of a firearm and was new to her.

"The two-year old removed the firearm from the purse and fired one bullet from the pistol," The release said. "The bullet struck Mrs. Rutledge in the head, killing her instantly."

Miller said the Walmart store manager, who was nearby when the gun was fired, stepped in and took the firearm from the child. The manager and store employees reacted quickly and efficiently to secure the scene and escort the patrons from the store as first responders were arriving.

"The sheriff's office would like to thank the public for the outpouring of support for the family and friends of Rutledge as well as the first responders," Miller said in the release. "To Veronica's family, we offer our sincerest condolences."

Terry Rutledge said both Roni and her husband, Colt, are avid gun enthusiasts and both have taken many classes in gun safety.

"Our whole family, we are gun people," Rutledge said. "Roni usually carried on her person, but they have been researching other ways to conceal their weapons in public."

Both Colt and Roni had legal concealed weapons permits, Rutledge said.

"Unfortunately, my son bought her that purse for Christmas," he said, adding the purse was specially designed to carry a concealed weapon. It was equipped with retention holster in a zipper-enclosed pocket.

"Neither of them took the decision to buy the purse lightly," Rutledge said. "This really hits our family hard."

He said he has analyzed the situation and cannot find where his daughter-in-law went wrong.

"I can't fault her with doing anything wrong," he said. "And I am not trying to defend the gun manufacturer or the purse manufacturer. This is just tragic accident."

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