A two-year-old toddler, sitting in a shopping cart in a Walmart, accidently shot his mother dead with a gun he found in his mother's purse which she had left unattended and within reach as she shopped, The New York Times reported.
The accident which happened shortly before 10:20 am on Tuesday, was captured by the store video cameras. The little boy found a gun in his mother's purse and it discharged once at near point-blank range from where she stood, less than arm's length away, according to Lt Stu Miller, a spokesman for the Kootenai County sheriff's office. The woman died at the scene, he said, her death appeared to be accidental.
According to Miller, the boy, probably still does not even know what had happened.
The victim, Veronica Jean Rutledge, 29, of Blackfoot, Idaho, about 380 miles from Hayden in Idaho's southeast corner, had been visiting family members in the community of about 13,000 people bordering the resort town of Coeur d'Alene, about 40 minutes from Spokane, Washington. Both her parents and her husband's live in the area, Lieutenant Miller said.
Miller did not know whether Rutledge had a permit to carry a concealed weapon. After the incident her husband came to the store to collect his son.
Meanwhile, The Independent reported that the toddler had been placed in a shopping trolley's child-seat and was able to put his hand into Mrs Rutledge's purse. According to the police, Rutlege died before the emergency services could reach her.
Officers said Rutledge had a licence to carry a concealed weapon. However, it was not clear why the gun went off so easily when squeezed by a toddler, and whether a safety catch was engaged.
According to the victim's father-in-law, Terry Rutledge, who spoke to the Associated Press, the mother-of-four "was a beautiful, young, loving mother".
He added, she was not the least bit irresponsible.
A Walmart spokeswoman, Brooke Buchanan, said in a statement: "A very sad incident occurred at our store today in Hayden involving the death of a female customer. We are working with the Kootenai Sheriff's department as they investigate what happened."
The incident follows a similar accident in Oklahoma in which a mother was fatally shot by her three-year-old with a semi-automatic handgun.
According to the police, it appeared the child picked up the gun while his mother was changing a one-year-old's nappy.