Illinois mother killed by her 3-year-old son playing with gun in grocery store parking lot

DOLTON, Illinois -- A young mother is dead after her toddler accidentally shot her Saturday in Dolton, according to police.

A family's life was changed in an instant while sitting in a grocery store parking lot. Police said a 3-year-old boy got his hands on a gun in the back seat of his parents' car and began playing with the weapon. It discharged, hitting his mother, 22-year-old Dejah Bennet, in the neck. She died a short time later.

"This could have been prevented," said Dolton trustee and crisis responder Andrew Holmes.

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If you have a gun in the house, here's a reminder to be careful. A boy was shot after his mom tossed her purse, forgetting about the gun she had stored in it.

Holmes stood outside the supermarket Sunday, handing out 400 gun locks while speaking to shoppers, families in particular, about the importance of gun safety.

"It's very important. If you do have guns at home, put them up -- lock them up. If you have little children, it doesn't matter, they get into any and everything," said Dolton resident Crystal Lyons.

"All it takes is a second: unlock it, thread it through the barrel, bring it back around, put it in and lock it back," Holmes added. "If you leave it, secure it."

The boy's father, who was also present at the time of the shooting, is now in custody as police determine whether there are any charges to be filed against him.

TAKE ACTION: Resources for survivors and victims of gun violence
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