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Boy, 2, Accidentally Shoots and Kills Mom at Idaho Walmart

Idaho Mom Is Fatally Shot by 2-Year-Old Son in a Walmart Store 2:00

The family of a woman who was fatally shot by her two-year-old son in an Idaho Walmart Tuesday said she was a responsible gun owner and a “wonderful mother” who was “taken much too soon.”

Veronica Rutledge, 29, was shot in the head and died instantly after her two-year-old son reached into her purse and got a hold of a 9mm Smith & Wesson handgun during a shopping trip in Hayden, the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office said Wednesday. The Walmart store manager stepped in after the 10:20 a.m. shooting and took the gun away from the child, officials said.

"A tragic, tragic accident," Kootenai sheriff's Lt. Stu Miller told reporters after the 10:20 a.m. shooting. Rutledge, a research scientist at the Idaho National Laboratory, was a responsible gun owner, family members told NBC News, and stored the gun in a purse she had gotten for Christmas that is specifically designed to hold a concealed handgun.

The child was in the shopping cart next to the purse when he was able to access the gun, Miller said. Rutledge’s three young nieces, none older than 11, were also present during the shooting. Rutledge had a legal permit to carry a concealed weapon, Miller said, but "all the precautionary measures weren’t taken to ensure the safety of that weapon." Hayden is about 40 miles east of Spokane.