The parents of the 4-year-old boy who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in August will face criminal charges, the Clark County district attorney’s office announced Friday.
The shooting happened just before 2 p.m. Aug. 1 on the 9500 block of Chandler Springs Avenue in the southwest Las Vegas Valley. Police said the boy, Bradley Whitis, was taken to University Medical Center’s trauma unit, where he died less than an hour later.
His parents, Ronald and Kimberly Whitis, each face one count of child abuse and neglect. Ronald Whitis also has been charged with one count of child abuse and neglect with substantial bodily harm.
The criminal complaint alleged that the boy’s parents left one of their guns unsecured in a downstairs bedroom. Their son found the gun when nobody else was in the room, it said.
“These types of cases are so tragic, and charging the parents with a crime is one of the most difficult decisions we, as prosecutors, have to make,” District Attorney Steve Wolfson said in a statement. “This very sad event is a reminder to us all to never take for granted the importance of properly securing guns and ensuring that children are unable to get a hold of one.”
Bradley Whitis’ official cause and manner of death was still pending with the county coroner’s office as of Friday morning.
Child gun safety activist Darchel Mohler said she had mixed feelings learning the parents had been charged.
She was glad to see the district attorney’s office press charges against the parents. Mohler said she hopes it sets a precedent in which parents and adults are held accountable for leaving guns within a child’s reach. But the accidental shooting hits home.
“I know what they’re going through,” Mohler said. “I live that every day.”
Mohler’s daughter, 13-year-old Brooklynn Mae Mohler, was shot and killed by her best friend on the second-to-last day of school in 2013. She and her husband, Jacob, have since advocated for keeping guns out of children’s hands.
She preaches securing firearms in safes. If people can afford a gun and ammunition, she said, they can afford a safe. Mohler said she encourages parents to ask the parents of their children’s friends whether they have unsecured guns at home.
Mohler didn’t ask before Brooklynn went to her friend’s house across the street from school. The Mohlers waited for five months before the Clark County district attorney’s office told them there would be no charges.
She said she was upset for the family and their loss while maintaining the charges were an appropriate consequence for the boy’s death.
“Never underestimate a children’s ability to find a firearm,” she said.
Ronald and Kimberly Whitis’ arraignment is scheduled for Oct. 5.
Contact Rio Lacanlale at email@example.com or 702-383-0381. Follow @riolacanlale on Twitter. Review-Journal staff writer Mike Shoro contributed to this story.
Safe firearm storage tips
— Always keep firearms unloaded and locked in a safe, cabinet or gun vault when not in use.
— Keep ammunition locked in a separate location.
— Use a gun locking device when a firearm is not in use.
— Educate people in the home on safety and have children tell an adult if they ever find a gun.
Source: Project Childsafe