Authorities in Florida say a 2-year-old girl is in “exceptionally” critical condition following a shooting accident. It happened Friday night as three male friends gathered to watch the basketball play-offs at a home in Polk County. One of those men, however, brought a loaded handgun to the residence — and despite his attempts to hide the weapon, it was eventually discovered by the girl’s 3-year-old brother, who managed to hit his sister with a single shot.
The shooting occurred just before midnight at a home in West Lakeland.
According to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, the home is owned by Chad Berrien, 24, who invited his two friends over for a night of basketball.
Those men have since been identified as Rodderick Haynes and Kevonte’ Wilson, both 23. Authorities say it was Wilson who reportedly brought the handgun to the home, which was later identified as a Hi-Point .380 pistol, and that he hid it between the couch cushions — but apparently did not lock it — in an effort to “keep it away from the children.”
As the three men cheered on their team throughout the night, the two toddlers played nearby.
But at some point during the game, the 3-year-old boy found the gun inside the couch, and before any of the men realized what was happening, he had pulled the trigger.
“During the excitement of the ball game, [the men] heard a pop,” explained Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, during a press conference Saturday. “They immediately looked to see that the 2-year-old female had been shot and was on the couch, and [they saw] the 3-year-old scramble from the living room, running and crying to his bedroom.
“He was a baby playing with what he thought was some sort of toy,” the sheriff added, noting just how shocked and likely traumatized the boy was by what happened.
The men scooped up the wounded girl, placed her in a car, and tried to rush her to a nearby hospital.
Before they could get there, however, the sheriff said that another unexpected accident happened.
“A vehicle turned into their path and they T-boned the vehicle on Olive Street,” Judd explained, adding that there were “significant injuries” caused by that accident as well
Luckily, a Good Samaritan drove by at just the right time.
After learning that the child had been seriously shot, the stranger took the girl and one of the men to the hospital, before first responders could even arrive.
According to Judd, all of the passengers suffered some form of injury in the crash, but he called it a “blessing” that none were more serious, considering how significant the accident was.
At the hospital, doctors quickly determined that the bullet had struck the 2-year-old girl in the chest.
The bullet then apparently traveled downward, striking her pancreas and possibly her large and small intestines before going out her back, which left the girl with severe internal injuries that required emergency surgery. At the time of the crash, she was being held in the arms of Chad Barrien and does not appear to have suffered additional injury.
Judd reported Saturday that everyone who was involved in the accident, besides the 2-year-old, had been treated and released from the hospital.
A police investigation has led to two arrests.
Barrien was arrested and charged with possession of marijuana and maintaining a house for drug use after authorities processing the shooting scene discovered that the home was “filled” with the drug, which is not legal in Florida.
Wilson, on the other hand, was charged with failing to safely store a firearm, carrying a concealed firearm, and possession of marijuana.
According to Judd, Haynes has not been charged but that additional charges may be filed later depending on how the situation evolves. He did note that all three men were shocked and saddened by what happened and have been “totally cooperative” with the police investigation.
During the press conference, Judd described the 3-year-old boy as “wonderful” and both children as innocent victims.
“It just appears to be a horrible, tragic accident that should have never have occurred,” he shared, before explaining that the children’s mother had been away at the time visiting a relative. The 3-year-old boy is being looked after by his grandmother until his mother returns.
As for the 2-year-old girl, she remains hospitalized.
“The child is in exceptionally critical condition, and certainly needs our prayers … as does the entire family,” Judd said Saturday, adding that she would soon be transferred to an ICU at another hospital in central Florida.
The sheriff also took a moment to note that even though none of the men was engaged in “reckless” behavior at the time of the shooting, the accident is a reminder of how important it is for owners to safely store and carry their firearms — especially when children are around.