3-year-old accidentally shoots pregnant mother in NW Indiana parking lot

MERRILLVILLE, Ind. – Police say a 3-year-old girl accidentally shot and wounded her pregnant mother in a car parked outside a northwestern Indiana thrift store.

The shooting happened around 4 p.m. Tuesday in the 300 block of East 81st Avenue in Merrillville, Ind., in the parking lot of Plato’s Closet.

Police say the woman and her two children, ages 1 and 3, were sitting inside a parked car when the 3-year-old daughter got a hold of a handgun and accidentally shot the mother.

The woman's boyfriend was inside the store shopping when the shots were fired.

Employees of Plato’s Closet heard screaming and ran out to help.

“What I saw was a lady she was almost about to fall, she was like bleeding out with like a bucket of blood on the ground and I just saw her two kids just standing there,” Paloma Prieto, a witness, said.

“We grabbed the little boy who was still in the car and we took the little girl from the mom because she was holding her hand and we took them inside and just tried comforting them the best we could,” Rebecca Todd, a witness, said.

“The boyfriend was inside the store shopping so he ran outside because someone told him that there was a girl bleeding and he was yelling, ‘Did you kill yourself? Did you do this to yourself?’ Hadassah Zirkle, a witness, said.

Police say the man is the girl's father and apparently left the loaded gun in the car.

The woman was transported to Methodist Hospital’s Southlake campus.

She is listed in critical but stable condition. Detective Sgt. James Bogner says the girl "had no idea what she had done and she was very scared."

Police say the man was held on suspicion of child endangerment.

The children were placed in protective custody. Police say the couple had traveled to Merrilville from Michigan City to get the woman pregnancy care.

The investigation is ongoing.