According to the Orange County sheriff’s department, the shooting occurred Monday afternoon, after the babysitter, Melissa Ann Ringhardt, 19, left her handgun on a table while she napped in a bedroom. As she slept, the 5-year-old boy, identified John Read, found the loaded .40-caliber gun and accidentally shot himself.
When she awoke, Ringhardt discovered the boy’s body in the family’s living room but, because there was no phone in the home, was unable to call for help. Instead, she carried the boy’s body, along with his 6-month-old sister, to his grandparent’s home a block away. When paramedics arrived, John was pronounced dead at the scene.
"People have the right to bear arms, and with that comes great responsibility," Orange County sheriff's Chief Deputy Clint Hodgkinson told KFDM-TV of Beaumont. "If someone, somehow, puts a firearm in a place where a child is able to get that weapon, you've committed an offense."
"Sometimes, it takes something like this — as tragic as it is — for people to reflect on those things, and these are the opportunities you take ... to say, 'Look, what could we have done?'" Hodgkinson said.
Ringhardt was arrested on a felony charge of abandoning or endangering a child and is being held on $250,000 bond. She told police she had the gun because she was afraid of being home alone.
Earlier this year, a three-year-old shot himself in the head with a gun he thought was a toy, a five-year-old boy fatally shot his sister with a gun he thought was unloaded, and a four-year-old shot and killed the wife of a sheriff’s deputy with a loaded handgun he found at a BBQ.