According to police, the toddler found the unsecured gun in the master bedroom of the N. Boyd Avenue home around 11 a.m. on Sunday. He walked with the loaded semi-automatic gun into a bedroom where three of his siblings were playing, including 6-year-old Emily Lavender.
Police said the boy pointed the gun toward Emily and accidentally fired. The bullet hit Emily in the chest.
“The gun accidentally discharged, striking the child,” said Sgt. Stephen Viveros of the Fresno Police Department. “The child was pronounced deceased at the scene.”
Viveros said that Emily’s stepfather was in the living room at the time. The children’s mother was not at home.
After a search of the home, police found the handgun involved in the shooting as well as 52 additional firearms.
“We will seize the firearms for now, pending the outcome (of the investigation),” Viveros said.
The stepfather was taken to police headquarters for questioning, but was later released, according to police. Charges could be pending for criminal storage of firearms and a firearm causing great bodily injury.
Five children ages 2 to 15 lived in the home, according to police. The four surviving children were taken by Child Protective Services to a relative’s home.
Emily was a first grader at Maple Creek Elementary School, which three of her siblings also attend.
“Emily was a sweet and a very loving, loving young girl here at Maple Creek and she’s going to be missed,” said Maple Creek Principal Gina Kismet.
A letter was sent out to parents of the school’s students with suggestions on how to talk to their children about Emily’s death. Grief counselors were on campus on Tuesday for the students and staff members, and will continue to be available as needed.
“It really becomes a time for the staff to pull together and the community and kind of strengthen each other by being there, and it has built a sense of community and shared loss,” said Kelly Avants, spokesperson for Clovis Unified School District.
Police say there is a lesson to be learned from this tragedy.
“If you have your handguns, please secure them,” Viveros said. “Put on your locks and teach your kids about gun safety.”