PD: Payson toddler fatally shot by older brother

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The toddler was shot at Payson apartment and later died at the hospital. (Source: CBS 5 News) The toddler was shot at Payson apartment and later died at the hospital. (Source: CBS 5 News)
(Source: CBS 5 News) (Source: CBS 5 News)

A 1 1/2-year-old Payson boy died Tuesday afternoon after he was shot in the head by his older brother at a neighbor's apartment, police said.

Officers said the semi-automatic gun that belonged to the man they were visiting was not locked up in a safe.

Police dispatchers got several 911 calls at about 12:10 p.m., alerting them to a child with a head injury. 

Payson Police Chief Don Engler said officers found the mother carrying the wounded child to the parking lot.  

The boy was rushed to Payson Regional Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

"The apartment that this occurred in was a family friend of the mother and two children," Engler said.

The family had been there visiting for about 10 to 15 minutes.

Engler said the children found the semi-automatic handgun in the apartment and took it to another room. Engler said neither adult knew the boys had the weapon.

"The children had slipped into another room unobserved by the mother and the 78-year-old occupant of the apartment," Engler said.

The victim's 3-year-old brother pulled the trigger, Engler said.

Engler said it's a tragedy that's impacting the entire community.

"Even though many of our young officers have children of their own," Engler said, "certainly it's difficult for our officers in those circumstances."

"I was always so impressed with a mom who wants to give back and help out because when you have young kids you never have time to do that," said Suzy Tubbs, the director of Payson Community Kids, a nonprofit across the street that the young mother visited with her two sons.

"They were really cute, playing on the playground, playing hard, getting dirty, throwing rocks, typical little boys," Tubbs said. "This is unbelievable, and our teenagers were saying this is Payson, this doesn't happen in Payson. Well, it happened, and it hit really close to home for them."

Engler said the department's investigation is expected to take about a week and the results will be forwarded to the Gila County Attorney's Office for a decision on whether anyone will be prosecuted.

Police have not yet released any names.

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