Romell Watson could face a misdemeanor weapon charge after his 3-year-old son got ahold of a gun and accidentally killed his mother, 22-year-old Daejah Bennett. Chicago police are investigating the incident.
According to reports, the shooting took place around 8:30 p.m. Monday night. Romell Watson, Daejah Bennett, and the 3-year-old child were sitting in a car outside a Food 4 Less in Dolton, Ill. about 20 minutes outside of Chicago. The young child found the weapon and started playing with it before it went off and hit the child’s mother.
“He somehow got ahold of the gun and began playing with it in a playful manner, pointed the gun and fired the shot,” said Dolton Police Chief Robert Collins Jr. Daejah Bennett was shot in the neck and taken to the University of Chicago Medical Center where she was later pronounced dead.
The police chief said that they are still investigating the scene and trying to determine the proper charges for Romell Watson. The 23-year-old father could face an unlawful use of a weapon charge. Officers have determined that the gun was owned by Watson, but he didn’t have a concealed carry permit, which made it illegal to have the weapon in the car with him.
“He was legally entitled to own the gun; however, he transported the weapon in a vehicle in a manner not prescribed by law,” said Collins.
Earlier, the Dolton Police Department reported that they were unsure who fired the weapon and if the 3-year-old had access to the weapon at all. Collins then reported that the child went through a forensic interview with a professional trained at talking with children and the 3-year-old told them that he had fired the gun.
Collins said, “The child said he was the one who fired the gun. We are confident he fired the gun.”
Romell Watson has not commented on the shooting incident or his involvement in it.
Monday night’s shooting is just another example of shooting deaths by children under 18. According to Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonprofit that promotes gun control, unintentional shootings done by children under the age of 18 resulted in 142 people dead and 242 people wounded in 2020.
The nonprofit believes that the Covid-19 pandemic – which impacted parents’ access to childcare and saw an increase in gun ownership – is the reason for the increase in unintentional shootings caused by young children.
2021 saw 154 people dead and 244 wounded. So far this year, 16 people have been killed and 29 wounded because a child has gained access to a gun.
A report, which examined gun deaths in a six-year period ending in 2020 found that “in 2020, gun sales surged 64 percent, and this rise—coupled with school and childcare center closures as a result of the pandemic — has increased the risk for all household residents: the number of unintentional shooting deaths by children was 31 percent higher from March through December 2020 than during the same period in 2019.”
Children 14-17 accounted for 776 of these incidents, with them either shooting themselves or someone else, and children younger than 5 years old were responsible for 610 accidental shootings during the six-year time period.
Professionals believe parents can utilize safety steps to prevent these tragic shootings. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) believes that the safest step is to not have guns in the same home as young children. But if a gun is necessary, then parents should keep them in a safe area out of reach from children. The gun should be locked, unloaded, and the ammunition should be locked up in another area to prevent accidental shootings.