2-year-old shooting victim remains in critical condition

A 2-year-old girl is fighting for her life in a hospital room after being shot by her older brother Thursday night, the second child to fall victim to unsecured guns in less than a week. The girl remained at a local hospital in critical condition tonight. She and her family have not been identified by authorities.

“It’s a tragedy. It can be so prevented,” Las Vegas police spokeswoman Barbara Morgan said. “You have a right to carry a weapon, but you need to be responsible with your firearms.”

The department’s Violent Crimes Unit and Abuse Neglect Unit is investigating the shooting, which happened about 8:30 p.m. Thursday at the girl’s home at 1708 Verde Jardin Way, near Jones and Oakey boulevards. Investigators believe the girl’s 4-year-old brother found a loaded, improperly secured handgun in the house. While holding the weapon, it discharged, striking the sister in the torso.

The family was home at the time of the shooting Morgan said. No charges have been filed. The parents weren’t at the home this afternoon. There was a car in the driveway, but it was missing a tire and didn’t appear to have moved in some time. A barking dog welcomed visitors behind a fence in the backyard.

One neighbor said Verde Jardin Way was roped off by police until at least 2 a.m. today. She said she didn’t know the residents, but couldn’t believe parents would leave firearms around their children.

“People need to have their guns locked up,” said the neighbor, who wished to remain anonymous. “We’ve got kids, too. They (parents) need to be alert.”

The incident was the second this week involving a child being injured or killed after gaining access to a firearm. A 5-year-old autistic child, Giovanni Kopystenski, died Monday after accidentally shooting himself in the head with his father’s gun.

His father, Alexander Kopystenski, was in the car with his son when it happened and was arrested by police on a felony charge of child endangerment.

State law does not require guns be stored in a particular manner around children. But under the state’s child endangerment statute, a parent or guardian can be prosecuted if they allow situations “that a reasonable person would not grant,” such as leaving a loaded, unsecured weapon around a child.

Last month the parents of a 10-year-old boy were charged with child neglect, reckless endangerment and child endangerment after their son shot a girl in the mouth with a pistol.

The two were playing “cops and robbers,” according to authorities, and the boy loaded a bullet into his parents’ .38 caliber weapon and pulled the trigger.

North Las Vegas police found the family kept several unsecured guns in their home and that the boy had been caught playing with the guns before.

Guns have claimed the lives of 18 children 15 years of age and younger through homicides and accidents since the beginning of 2006, including Monday’s incident, according to a Clark County spokeswoman.

Five of those incidents were accidents. Police recommend that firearms are stored in a locked area, secured with a trigger or slide cable lock and kept unloaded.

“You have a responsibility to keep your gun locked up,” Morgan said. “If it’s not locked up, it should be completely unloaded.”

Contact reporter Lawrence Mower at lmower@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0440. Contact reporter Mike Blasky at mblasky@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0283.

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