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Merrillville police say small child got a hold of weapon in vehicle, accidentally shot pregnant mother in Plato's Closet parking lot; father taken in custody

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Merrillville police: Small child gets a hold of weapon in vehicle, accidentally shoots mother in Plato's Closet parking lot

Police tape surrounds the scene where police say a mother was shot by one of her young children Tuesday afternoon in Merrillville. 

MERRILLVILLE — Two small children, a boy and a girl, were in a vehicle outside of Plato's Closet when one of them got a hold of a handgun Tuesday and accidentally shot and injured their pregnant mother.

Police believe the girl accidentally shot the mom sitting in the front seat with the dad’s handgun that he left in the car, according to NBC 5 Chicago.  The father is being held on child endangerment charges, NBC reported.

The Times is not naming the father in custody because charges have not been formally filed against him. Police say they recovered a handgun at the scene. 

Merrillville police were called to the parking lot of Plato's Closet, 359 E. 81st Ave., at about 3:52 p.m., Merrillville Police Chief Joe Petruch said. 

The shooting remains under investigation, but appears to be accidental, Petruch said. 

The children were ages 3 and 1. The little girl grabbed her father’s gun and shot her mother in front of her little brother in a parked car, according to NBC, citing police.

The mother was initially transported with unknown injuries to Methodist Hospitals Southlake Campus in Merrillville, Petruch said. 

Several Merrillville squad cars and a Lake County police squad car could be seen in the parking lot Tuesday afternoon. Yellow crime scene tape surrounded the white Altima vehicle. 

Hadassah Zirkle, supervisor at Plato's Closet, told The Times someone approached her and told her they saw someone bleeding outside. 

"I walked outside and there was just blood falling everywhere," Zirkle said. 

She said she brought the children inside the store after the shooting so they wouldn't have to see their mother injured. She said someone in Plato's Closet called 911. 

Merrilville police say the couple, from Michigan City, came here to visit Planned Parenthood — since the mother is a few weeks pregnant.

Recent arrests booked into Lake County Jail

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North Lake County Reporter

Lauren covers North Lake County government, breaking news, crime and environmental issues for The Times. She holds a master’s degree in Public Affairs Reporting from UIS. Contact her at lauren.cross@nwi.com or 219-933-3206.

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