Aunt Babysitting Her 10-Year-Old Nephew Accidentally Shoots Him While Taking Selfies With Gun

Published February 27, 2020
Updated February 27, 2024

A night of babysitting went wrong after a 19-year-old girl started taking selfies with a gun she found in the apartment — unaware that it was loaded.

Caitlyn Smith Gun Selfie

CNNA 19-year-old aunt babysitting her nephew was arrested after she accidentally shot him while taking selfies with a gun.

It should’ve been a routine babysitting night for Caitlyn Smith. But when the 19-year-old found a loaded gun — and began taking selfies with it — things took a turn for the worst.

According to CNN, Smith arrived at the Houston apartment of her relative to babysit her 10-year-old nephew on Tuesday evening. At some point during the course of the evening, Smith found a gun in the apartment. Thinking it was unloaded, she took the gun and began posing on her mobile phone camera.

Then, the gun accidentally went off and the stray bullet hit her nephew right in his stomach. The boy was immediately taken to the hospital. Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez tweeted the incident as he was en route to the scene and followed up with an update about the boy’s condition the next day.

“Update: the 10-yr-old child is listed in serious condition but is expected to make a full recovery,” Gonzalez wrote. He also shared that the boy’s aunt had been arrested and charged with injury to a child-serious bodily injury which is a second degree felony.

The lucky 10-year-old seems to be physically out of harm’s way. But, like many survivors of gun violence, the child will likely need psychological care as well to heal from the trauma of the accident.

Gun violence remains one of the leading causes of death in the US. Based on an interactive map compiled by the independent news organization The Trace, which covers gun violence, there have been at least 2,842 shootings in Houston itself since 2014 though data from the last five years indicates that the number of shootings have dropped each year.

At least 1,623 people were killed by gun violence in the city within that same time period while 2,028 others were injured. Last year alone, a total of at least 15,292 people were fatally shot around the US.

That’s a three percent increase compared to the total of gun-related deaths in 2018, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit organization that tracks incidents of gun violence.

These statistics do not include nonfatal firearm injuries (a total of 29,613 in 2019) and suicides, the latter of which makes up the majority of gun-related deaths. Following the accidental shooting, Thomas Gilliland, senior deputy of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, reminded the public of the importance of being vigilant in the presence of firearms.

“Firearms are dangerous weapons so take precautions to make sure things like that don’t happen,” Gilliland said. “Taking selfies was not the best thing to be doing.”

Accidental gun deaths make up roughly one percent of total gun-related deaths in the country. Although instances of accidental gun deaths are rare, they still happen frequently enough that firearms safety remains a big part of the contentious debate on the country’s gun control.

In a neighborhood nearby where the 10-year-old boy had accidentally been shot, a four-year-old boy was killed after he accidentally shot himself with a gun that he found at his babysitter’s house five years ago. What’s worse, the tragedy occurred following the death of another Houston toddler who had been accidentally shot a mere three days before.

“It’s just a terrible accident,” a relative of the dead toddler’s mother told the Houston Chronicle then in tears. “We see it all the time on the news but you never think it’ll hit home. It’s the most horrible thing.”

Girl Ar 15 Idaho

Keith Ridler/APCharles Nielsen speaks in front of Idaho lawmakers as his granddaughter, Bailey, stands at his side with an AR-15.

The immense grief and regret left in the wake of gun incidents involving children is a far cry from a recent scene at the Idaho Statehouse earlier this week. An 11-year-old girl made headlines after her grandfather had her tote around an AR-15 rifle during a hearing on gun legislation.

Charles Nielsen addressed the hearing committee as his granddaughter, Bailey, stood next to him with the assault rifle slung over her shoulder like a common tote bag.

“Bailey is carrying a loaded AR-15,” Nielsen announced while his granddaughter stood silently by his side with her firearm. “People live in fear, terrified of that which they do not understand. She’s been shooting since she was 5 years old. She got her first deer with this weapon at 9. She carries it responsibly. She knows how not to put her finger on the trigger. We live in fear in a society that is fed fear on a daily basis.”

The bill Nielsen spoke in support of would allow visitors to the Gem State who are legally permitted to possess firearms to carry a concealed handgun in the city of Boise. The legislation is still being considered by Idaho lawmakers but if it does pass and becomes law, Idaho would be one of a handful of states in the US that allow such concealed carry practices.

Next, read the horrifying news of a toddler who shot two three-year-olds at a gun-ridden daycare in Michigan and the man who accidentally shot himself while robbing a wiener stand.

Natasha Ishak
A former staff writer for All That's Interesting, Natasha Ishak holds a Master's in journalism from Emerson College and her work has appeared in VICE, Insider, Vox, and Harvard's Nieman Lab.
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Ishak, Natasha. "Aunt Babysitting Her 10-Year-Old Nephew Accidentally Shoots Him While Taking Selfies With Gun.", February 27, 2020, Accessed June 14, 2024.