POST FALLS — A tragedy was narrowly avoided Thursday when a 3-year-old boy accidentally fired a loaded gun at Kiwanis Park in Post Falls, according to police.
The toddler who fired the weapon found it inside a vehicle he was in.
"We could've easily had a dead child on our hands," said Post Falls Police Capt. Greg McLean. "A few more inches and it would have struck a child in the driver's seat in the vehicle next to them."
The boy’s parents, Dusty and Jeremyah Polito, both 26-year-old Coeur d'Alene residents, were cited for injury to a child.
The bullet ricocheted off the driver's side window of the vehicle next to the one the 3-year-old boy was in. Dusty and a friend each had two children with them during the incident.
"Dusty advised the (9 mm) firearm belonged to her husband (Jeremyah)," the police report states. "Dusty advised she had no idea the firearm was in the vehicle."
Jeremyah was not at the park during the incident, and met with police at the police department later in the day. He admitted to police that he left the firearm in the vehicle.
"He stated that he and Dusty took the children for a drive the night before the incident," the report states. "He advised the children fell asleep in the vehicle. He stated that once they returned home, he and Dusty carried the children into the residence and he forgot the firearm was in the vehicle. He advised he usually carried it on his hip and simply forgot he had left it in the vehicle."
The 3-year-old sustained a small cut to his forehead and a small bump on his forehead above his right eye, the report states.
"Dusty advised the injury resulted from this incident and she believed the gun recoiled causing it to strike (the boy) in the forehead," the report states.
Police responded to the park south of Interstate 90 along the Spokane River off Ross Point Road at 3:08 p.m. for a report that a small child may have discharged a gun inside a vehicle.
"Someone could be heard yelling that everyone was OK," the report states.
Dusty told police she and her children met another mother and kids at the park.
"Dusty advised that her 3-year-old son got into the center console of the (2001 Dodge Durango) where she advised he picked up a handgun and fired a round from the weapon," the report states. "She advised the round appeared to have gone through the rear passenger door of the Durango which was open and struck the windshield of (her friend's) vehicle."
The officer wrote that the bullet came within "mere inches" of a tragedy.
"Given the fact that (the friend's) children were seated in the vehicle that was struck and the fact that there was another child in the vehicle in which the shot came from, this incident put all parties involved in serious danger of being seriously injured or killed," the report states.
The incident was the latest example of cases gaining national attention of young kids getting hold of weapons and accidentally firing them.
A 2-year-old boy fatally shot his mother from the back seat of the car as she drove along a Milwaukee, Wis., highway on Wednesday, less than two months after a Florida mother was shot and wounded in similar circumstances.
In 2014, Veronica J. Rutledge, a 29-year-old mom, died at the Hayden Walmart after her 2-year-old son accidentally shot her with a gun she was carrying in her purse.
McLean said the PFPD plans to hold a series of training seminars on gun safety prior to Idaho's new law allowing concealed carry without a permit, taking effect July 1.
"There is nothing built into the law requiring some sort of training, so there's concern that we have irresponsible people out there," he said.
The classes will be held in May and June, on dates to be determined.
"There is a big concern out there with the new law about people acting irresponsible and leaving guns in a place where they can get into a child's hands," McLean said. "We want to get out as much education as possible so we don't have as many mishaps like this. People have to make sure guns are away from children. Get gun locks. We were very fortunate we didn't have the death of a small child."