"I just want my baby," she said. "I just want my baby back."
Three-year-old Julio Segura-McIntosh fatally shot himself in the head early Wednesday morning. Police said the boy scrambled out of his child seat after his mom and her boyfriend stopped for gas, and found a gun that police believe was left in the car by the man.
"It's just overwhelming," said the boy's mother, flushed with anguish. "I'll do anything to get my baby back."
Tacoma police said the boy's death came after his mother's boyfriend put his pistol under a seat and got out to pump gas while the mother went inside the convenience store. The boy's infant sister, who also was in the car when the gun went off, was not injured.
Detectives questioned the pair and have called the shooting a tragic accident, Officer Naveed Benjamin said. The man has a concealed weapons permit, and no charges have been filed, he said. Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist said that he is reviewing the case for possible manslaughter charges.
"At this point, we need to know more of the facts," said Lindquist. "Generally speaking, in a situation like this, we look at all possible charges, and that would include manslaughter."
McIntosh described her son as an energetic and loving child.
"He was just always on the go. He was happy, and he was telling me that he loves me," she said. "He just was very caring. He was very smart. Very smart."
"I can't imagine what his mom's going through," said family friend Jennifer Carrillo. "He's so young. He didn't even get to live his life."
"He's always brought a smile to somebody else's face," Carrillo added. "He just was a happy little boy."
The accidental shooting in Tacoma marks the third in three weeks in Washington involving young children, and the second fatality. The spate of gun violence is raising questions about the effectiveness of the state's gun laws and community awareness of firearm safety.
Benjamin said the 3-year-old boy's death highlights the need for people to secure guns.
"It's just tragic, because it's such a preventable incident," he said. "Firearm safety is pretty simple. Lock it up or have control of it."
"That could've been prevented," said Carrillo. "I don't think people should leave guns in cars with kids in it. Even if it's on safety."
Washington does not have a law specifically concerning child access to firearms, however state law is very specific about carrying loaded pistols in vehicles.
A person with a concealed weapons permit may carry a gun in a car in Washington state, but they are required to have it on their person. If they have to leave behind in the car, the law says it must be locked and concealed from view.
The shooting follows the death of the 7-year-old daughter of a Marysville police officer in Stanwood on Saturday when a sibling found a gun and fired while the parents were out of their car. And on Feb. 22, an an 8-year-old girl was critically wounded in a Bremerton classroom when a gun fired inside the backpack of a 9-year-old boy as he put it on a desk.
In Saturday's shooting, off-duty Marysville police Officer Derek Carlile had parked the family van near Stanwood City Hall, and he and his wife were out of the vehicle when one of their children found the loaded gun and fired. The shot hit 7-year-old Jenna Carlile, and the girl, the oldest of their four children, died Sunday at a Seattle hospital.
The 8-year-old Bremerton girl, Amina Kocer-Bowman, remained in serious condition at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle after nearly dying in the accidental shooting at Armin Jahr Elementary, where a classmate brought a handgun to class.
Authorities believe the boy took the .45-caliber gun from the glove compartment of a car while visiting his mother and her boyfriend at their home. He lives with an uncle.
The three deaths represent an unusual uptick in the number of these tragic accidents, according to Washington state health officials.
About one accidental firearm death of a child each year is typical in Washington state, according to state health statistics gathered between 2007 and 2010, said Health Department spokesman Tim Church. During that same time period, an average of nine kids 17 and younger ended up in the hospital because of an accidental shooting, Church added.