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4-year-old boy shot, killed in Merrillville

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MERRILLVILLE | A 4-year-old Merrillville boy died Saturday morning after accidentally shooting himself with a gun he found in his home, officials said Saturday.

Cash Irby Jr. of the 6400 block of Cleveland Street was pronounced dead at 8:47 a.m. at the Methodist Hospitals Southlake Campus in Merrillville, a Lake County coroner's office report said.

The cause of death was listed as an accidental gunshot wound to the head.

Merrillville Police Cmdr. Jeff Rice said Irby took a gun from his parents' bedrooom and went to his room, where the gun discharged.

The child suffered a single gunshot wound to the head, Rice said.

Officers responded and found the child unresponsive. He was transported to the Methodist Hospitals Southlake Campus where he was later pronounced dead.

Kelly White-Gibson, Irby's second cousin, said she was on her way to a fundraising walk in Crown Point on Saturday morning when she received a phone call from her aunt.

"The first call I got, I heard crying in the background," White-Gibson, a Gary attorney, said from the front steps of Irby's home Saturday. "About an hour later, I got another call saying they were at the hospital."

White-Gibson said the child climbed shelves in a closet to get the gun, which was stored in the back of a top shelf. The family kept the handgun for protection, she said.

Irby's parents, 5-year-old sister and 2-year-old brother were home at the time, police and family members said.

"His mother had been bathing his sister and his father was with the baby when he heard a shot," White-Gibson said. "He went into his room and saw him and called 911 and stayed on the line until police arrived."

The child's father is the former owner of Trendsetters in Merrillville. His mother stays at home with the kids, White-Gibson said.

The boy "loved watching his 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,' playing with his toys, riding his bike," his cousin said.

"He was such an affectionate child," she said. "He would just come come and kiss his dad, like every 10 minutes. He and his sister would play all the time, so well together.

"He was just so smart, too smart, obviously."

White-Gibson said the family -- including her first cousin, who is the child's father -- "is devastated, but they've been surrounded by love and support."

Vehicles lined the family's driveway and quiet, mature tree-lined street just northwest of Broadway and Taft Street Saturday afternoon.

White-Gibson said the family "is asking people for their love, support and prayers."

Rice said the case remains under investigation.

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