The father of a 3-year-old boy who accidentally shot and killed his mother over the weekend in south suburban Dolton faces a misdemeanor gun charge, officials announced Monday night.
Deajah Bennett had just finished shopping at Food 4 Less, 1000 E. Sibley Blvd. and put her child in her car’s backseat, Dolton trustee and community activist Andrew Holmes said.
The child found his father’s gun and, as the mother sat in the driver’s seat, the gun went off in his hands and the bullet struck his mother’s back, Holmes said.
Bennett, 22, was taken to the University of Chicago Medical Center and pronounced dead, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.
“We’re trying to get trauma counseling for [the child] and his family because he’s going to need it the rest of his life,” Holmes said. “That life changed within a second.”
The boy’s father was arrested and admitted the gun was his, Holmes said. Romell Watson, 23, will face misdemeanor gun charges, town officials announced Monday.
He was legally entitled to own the gun but transported the weapon in a vehicle in an unlawful manner, officials said. He is expected to be processed and released from custody Monday night.
Holmes advocates for young victims of gun violence and has recently sought to raise awareness of the dangers of unlocked guns. In late February, Holmes distributed 400 gun locks in Chicago to combat the rising number of accidental shootings involving children.
The day after Bennett was killed, Holmes distributed 300 gun locks at the Food 4 Less parking lot where the shooting took place.
There were 2,070 accidental shootings by children in the United States between 2015 and 2021, resulting in 765 deaths, according to research by the advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety.
In 90% of those cases, a child was also the victim of the gunfire. Seven in 10 of the unintentional shootings were in homes.
Accidental shootings by children have risen during the pandemic, the research found, rising with gun sales across the country.
“Children are getting these guns more often now because they roll out from under the seat, or they go in the pouch and pick it up,” Holmes said. “If you’re going to put them in the car, lock them down.”