MUNCIE, Ind. — Two parents were arrested after a 5-year-old girl was shot and killed by her 6-year-old brother Tuesday afternoon at a home on Muncie’s southside, according to police.

Per the Muncie Police Department, officers responded to the 2800 block of South Monroe Street at approximately 2:25 p.m. for a reported shooting inside a home. When officers arrived, they found that someone had fired a gun inside, hitting the victim in the head.

Despite all efforts to save the child, she was pronounced dead after being rushed to IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital in Muncie, police said.

“All I could have done, and what I did do, is pray for the family,” said a woman who lives in the neighborhood. “My heart goes out to the family. It’s sad.”

“Through the investigation it was determined that a 6-year-old male sibling had retrieved a gun from a safe in the residence and had accidentally shot his sister,” shared MPD Deputy Chief Melissa Criswell.

Police arrested 27-year-old Kimberly Grayson and 28-year-old Jacob Grayson, the parents of both children, on preliminary charges of neglect of a dependent resulting in death, a Level 1 Felony, and several counts of neglect of a dependent, a Level 6 Felony.

A probable cause affidavit obtained by FOX59 on Wednesday details how the child was able to easily get the gun and “deplorable” living conditions that investigators found when they responded to the home.

Investigators were told by the 6-year-old boy that he got a black gun out of a safe in his mom and dad’s bedroom while his mom napped, court documents show. The boy told police that the safe was on a dresser in his parent’s bedroom.

“[He] stated that the key was in the key hole and he simply turned it, pushed on the door, and it opened,” an officer stated in the affidavit. “He advised he accidentally shot [her] while playing with the gun.”

Officers conducted interviews with both parents at the police station after the shooting.

According to police, Kimberly told investigators that her son had accessed the safe in the past and that she had taken a nap the afternoon of the shooting, but that she estimated she had only slept for five minutes. Documents show she was napping in the bedroom where the safe was located.

“The safe was on a very low dresser that [boy] can easily reach,” the affidavit said.

Documents also show that Kimberly told investigators she and her husband have taken the 6-year-old boy to a shooting range before and showed him how to use a handgun.

When investigators spoke with Jacob, he also told them that the young boy had accessed the safe previously, documents show.

The father told police that there are two firearms in the safe and that each had a loaded magazine inserted. He also acknowledged the boy had been to the shooting range before, according to the affidavit.

Court documents also detailed dire living conditions inside the home.

“The living conditions in the home were deplorable. There was food, trash, animal feces, and furniture strewn throughout the house. The children’s beds were mattresses on the floor with no sheets or blankets,” an officer wrote.

Investigators also said both mattresses were stained and the walls of the home appeared to have feces smeared on them in several places.

Several neighbors that live in the immediate area of the home where this happened told FOX59 off camera they weren’t aware there were even children in the home where this happened, citing that they had not seen anyone outside playing from what they can recall.

Kimberly is being held in the Delaware County Jail on a $65,000 surety bond, while records show Jacob was released after posting a $65,000 surety bond.

Formal charges have not yet been filed in the case, according to court records.

“The right to possess firearms is one of the greatest freedoms granted to us by the second amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That said, it is every gun owner’s responsibility to store and care for their firearms appropriately. Guns should never be within reach or accessible to children or those who cannot be trusted to handle them. In a home with children, firearms should be stored in a quality locked safe- preferably one designed for gun storage,” MPD Chief Nathan Sloan shared with FOX59.

“All new firearms are sold with locks to render the firearm inoperable and if a safe is not available, this is the next best option. If the firearm was purchased in used condition and the lock is not available, the weapon should be stored unloaded in an appropriate location with the ammunition stored separately in a different part of the residence. Gun ownership is a heavy burden and when these basic gun safety guidelines are ignored it puts our most vulnerable citizens at considerable risk,” Sloan added.

We spoke with experts in firearms safety and training, as well as a child abuse prevention advocate following this shooting.

Certified firearms instructor, Daniel Scalf, who is a shift lead and training coordinator at Indy Arms, said he can’t emphasize enough how important it is to take steps to not only secure a firearm, but also to educate on gun safety.

He said something they teach in their training is how to properly secure a firearm, which means under “lock and key,” not simply hiding it somewhere like above the fridge, under a mattress, etc.

Scalf also recommended people invest in a safe that can be opened touchpad, a biometric one that is opened by a fingerprint, or one that is accessible by key.

“This allows the firearm owner to have quick access to the firearm if they need it in an emergency,” he said.

Under no circumstances should a child or anyone besides the responsible gun owner be able to access it, Scalf added.

“It does no good to lock the firearm up if anyone has access to the key. You must secure the key, as well as access to the firearm,” said Scalf.

In addition to educating people on how to safely secure firearms, Scalf said another aspect of gun safety, is educating people in a home where a gun is stored, on the gun itself.

“We like that idea, age appropriate of course, but we understand a certain age when people become interested in the firearms. As a whole, we believe that introducing to them, letting them become familiar with it takes a certain degree of the curiosity out of it,” said Scalf. “Of course, clearly explaining, this is not to be touched or handled any time an adult is not around.”

Scalf said when they encourage people to take training classes, that also includes continued training, not a one-time thing. An overused phrase often heard by instructors, Scalf added, is “I’ve been around guns my entire life,” but said even people who have been should keep up with training.

In this case, parents told investigators they brought the 6-year-old boy to the shooting range and showed him how to use a handgun, court documents showed.

FOX59 found, many area shooting ranges, Indy Arms included, do not allow children that young.

“Each child may be different on attention span and such. Here at our range, 10 years old is the minimum age to come to the range with an adult or guardian. We leave that to the parent or guardian to decide for each individual child,” said Scalf.

Safety experts and child abuse prevention advocates believe tragedies like this one are preventable.

“All of the cases that we typically hear, it is negligence on the firearm owner’s part. It really, really is,” shared Scalf.

Prevent Child Abuse Indiana Programs Director Sandy Runkle said these conversations after a child loses their life in an unintentional shooting or other accident are happening too often.

“It almost gets harder each time because we know it is preventable and because we’ve been in these types of interviews hundreds of times, saying the same thing over and over and over again,” said Runkle. “It doesn’t get easier, nor should it, or else then where will we be if suddenly we become complacent and not move forward and try to continue in this work?”

Runkle noted that children are curious and oftentimes want to emulate an adult or older figure in their life, which is why safety around anything dangerous needs to be especially considered.

“Little ones you have to be – you have to repeat things with them obviously because they’re little and their little brains aren’t fully developed yet and they’re not critically thinking. They’re curious and sometimes they want to be grown up, sometimes they’ll want to imitate adults,” Runkle said. “That’s why it’s especially important to keep those safety measures in place.”

Runkle said sometimes just telling a child not to touch something like a gun or cleaning supplies under a sink, whatever it may be, isn’t effective enough because they’re excited and curious and could forget.

“You’re not dealing with little adults. You’re dealing with children whose brains are not fully developed and who just need a lot of supervision and repetition and consistency and all of those wonderful things we have to do with children to help them grow,” she said.

In addition to the allegations of improper gun storage that contributed to this shooting, court documents also detailed a feces-filled home, unsuited for living conditions.

It’s not clear whether anyone was aware of the alleged conditions, however, Runkle does remind that state law in Indiana mandates any adult that suspects a child is a victim of abuse or neglect make a report.

Another question that comes to mind; what do you do if you aren’t sure whether something is a sign of abuse or neglect?

“It’s hard to know when to have that line be crossed, that’s why we encourage people if they’re really not aware of the entirety of the situation, it is always better to be safe and report,” said Runkle, who added, people should be specific and detailed in how you report and be able to answer questions, if needed.

Not every sign of abuse or neglect is physical, experts said.

“In terms of kind of a longterm neglect or abuse situation, sometimes there’s physical signs, but not always, sometimes there’s behavioral, and even then it’s not always easy for people to catch,” said Runkle.

That is why she encourages people to have conversations with a child or family member if you suspect something is going on.

Runkle shared, “That’s why it’s always nice to ask the child, ‘hey what’s going on? How are things going?'”

Protecting children from situations of neglect or abuse takes the entire community, Runkle shared.

She also added many people in certain professions will go to or inside a home and may be able to spot something that others may not have seen.

“We would be speaking to them as well; repair individuals, landlords, property management companies, exterminators, whoever, that may actually go inside; food delivery, sometimes they go inside,” Runkle said.

“There is no, ‘oh I didn’t want to get involved.’ Everybody needs to be involved. It can’t be those working in this line, those working with children, it can and should be everybody,” Runkle said.

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