Dustin Walters, a 25-year-old Georgia man, was accidentally shot dead in Savannah when a toddler “found and fired” a handgun, police announced this week.
It’s not clear if the child, just under 2 years old, is Walters’ son. In a statement issued Tuesday, Savannah Police Chief Roy Minter said he grieves along with all involved.
“As a parent, I cannot imagine what this family is going through or will continue to go through in the coming years,” he said.
“What we want to make sure now is that parents are aware that although rare, these incidents can happen with tragic results. Please take this seriously and take the steps to ensure that you and your family members are safe.”
Police: Dustin Walters Shot by Toddler
According to police and local reports, authorities were called to Walters’ home on the 100 block of E. 64th Street at around 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 5. There, they said, they found the 25-year-old badly wounded from an apparent gunshot.
Walters was rushed to nearby Memorial Medical Center where he later succumbed to his injuries, police said.
After a preliminary investigation, detectives said Tuesday they believe Walters was shot by accident when a child just under 2 years old picked up and discharged a handgun. Authorities have not explained how the child accessed the weapon and how it was being stored.
Officials also asked that the family’s privacy be respected, and did not say whether the toddler is the 25-year-old victim’s child. However, Walters’ obituary and photos from his Facebook page show he had a young son around that age.
Gun Accidents All Too Common
Tragic, accidental shootings involving family members and unattended children are terrifyingly common, statistics show.
According to Everytown for Gun Safety, a non-profit advocacy group founded by Michael Bloomberg in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, there have been at least 330 unintentional shootings by children this year across the U.S. Of those incidents, 135 resulted in a death, while 212 left victims injured, the organization reported.
Savannah police said Tuesday that Walters’ tragic death offered parents “a moment to think about the firearms in their homes and in any homes that their children frequent.”
“Make sure those firearms are secured and not accessible by children,” the department advised. “If your children frequent a home where there are firearms, have a conversation with those people to make sure that firearms are secured and not accessible. If your child is old enough, have a conversation about the dangers of firearms and advise the child to never touch a firearm.”
Increasingly in cases of accidental shootings involving children, prosecutors are trying to hold the gun owners criminally liable for negligence.
After a 21-year-old Florida mom was fatally shot by her toddler during a work Zoom call in August, the child’s father was charged with manslaughter and unsafe storage of a firearm. Police claimed the child found the handgun in a Paw Patrol branded backpack moments before the tragedy.
Walters Mourned by Family
Dustin Walters leaves behind a partner, Tori Pippin, as well as a young child, his parents, and three siblings, according to his obituary. The 25-year-old worked at The Nelson Companies, a Savannah-based carpet cleaning service.
“Dustin was an amazing father, life partner, son, nephew, and friend,” his loved ones wrote. “He loved spending time with family and friends enjoying dirt bikes, camping, crossbows, slingshots, and skateboarding.”