Police: Mom let 2-year-old handle gun before shooting

A woman arrested after her 2-year-old son picked up her loaded handgun and shot his 9-year-old brother said she previously allowed the 2-year-old to practice pulling the trigger of the gun when it was unloaded, Phoenix police said Tuesday.

The 9-year-old boy was shot in the head Monday and remained on life support Tuesday, police said.

Wendy Lavarnia, 28, "described allowing the 2-year-old to practice pulling the trigger of this gun when empty on previous occasions," police said in a probable cause statement filed with court officials for Lavarnia's initial court appearance.

Police said Monday night the 9-year-old had died as a result of being shot Monday afternoon but corrected that information Tuesday morning to say he remained on life support.

Lavarnia didn't have an attorney and spoke little when she appeared briefly before a judge Tuesday after being arrested and jailed on suspicion of four counts of child abuse -- one count for each of her four children in the home.

Lavarnia asked the judge whether she could go to the hospital to check on her son's condition, but the judge said she couldn't get out of jail without posting a $25,000 bond. The judge also said she had to stay away from victims in the case as well as any children.

Sgt. Vince Lewis, a Phoenix Police Department spokesman, said Lavarnia was accused of child abuse for allegedly endangering her children.

Lewis said Lavarnia told police she placed her loaded gun on a bed within reach of her 2-year-old and 4-year-old sons while she turned to get a holster and that the 2-year-old shot her 9-year-old son.

The probable cause statement said the 9-year-old "was playing video games a few feet away."

The father, 31-year-old Kansas Lavarnia, arrived home as police investigated the shooting Monday afternoon and was arrested on suspicion of misconduct with a weapon for being a prohibited possessor with a gun in the family home, Lewis said.

No information was immediately available on the status of Kansas Lavarnia. He was arrested and booked into jail. However, he was not listed as being a jail inmate Tuesday afternoon, and there's no phone listing under his name.

A review conducted by The Associated Press and the USA TODAY Network found that minors died from accidental shootings at their own hands, or at the hands of other children or adults, at a pace of one every other day during the first six months of 2016.

"It's gun safety," Jason Burns, a neighbor of the Lavarnias, told KPHO-KTVK-TV (https://goo.gl/qGMpyz ) . "You need to keep it locked up and you need to educate your kids that this is not a toy."


This story has been corrected to reflect police said initially that the boy had died but later said he remained on life support.