CPD: Charges likely for grandmother in Sam's Club shooting - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

CPD: Charges likely for grandmother in Sam's Club shooting

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Authorities say a four-year-old girl from Salley is recovering after she grabbed a gun out of her grandmother's purse and shot herself in the Harbison Blvd. Sam's Club Monday.

Now police say her grandmother may face charges.

A family member tells WIS News 10 the girl, whose name is Taylor, is able to speak and remembers pulling the trigger.

We're told Taylor is in stable condition and is off the ventilator she used Tuesday. Authorities say she may be able to be released in a few days.

Taylor underwent emergency surgery Monday afternoon at Palmetto Health Richland Memorial Hospital. CPD spokesman Brick Lewis says no major organs were hit by the bullet.

"The child was shot just below the sternum and the bullet traveled downward and exited just above the top of her buttocks," says Columbia Police Capt. Thomas Dodson.

Someone at the hospital found the bullet. It was trapped, possibly, in Taylor's clothes. The .32 caliber slug somehow missed the child's spine and vital organs.

"Believe it or not probably the ballistics on a .32 are less damaging than that of a .22 or .25. The velocity of the round is slower. The mass is a little bit more on the bullet. The .22 because it weighs so little and travels so fast, tends to ricochet around inside the body so it's probably actually better that it was a larger caliber round," says Dodson.

Investigators believe the child was sitting in the shopping cart pushed by her grandmother, Aiken County Magistrate Donna Hutto Williamson. Police say the child pulled the gun out of Williamson's purse and accidentally shot herself in the chest.

The entire incident was captured on surveillance cameras near the store's pharmacy department.

"They made an announcement that they were closing and that there was an official on the scene. No announcements to what happened," said Heath Mills, who was in the store at the time.

Concealed weapons are prohibited in South Carolina courthouses.

The same goes for other public buildings including police departments, schools, doctor's offices and hospitals like Palmetto Health Richland Memorial -- the hospital where Williamson's granddaughter is recovering.

"We certainly believe that if the grandmother had seen she had a firearm in her hand, she would have reacted before the incident happened. Looks like grandmama's doing what people would do and that's shopping. She's got her mind on shopping and she's fairly secure her grandchild was right there in front of her," Dodson.

Sam's Club, along with many other private businesses, does not ban customers from carrying concealed weapons.

State law says active magistrates can carry concealed weapons "while on duty." It also says anyone with a concealed weapon permit must have their permit ID card in their possession while carrying a gun.

Dodson says Williamson has a valid concealed weapons permit and did have her card with her at the time of the shooting.

CPD spokesman Brick Lewis said Monday Williamson has not been charged with a crime, but Tuesday Dodson said charges appear likely, possibly child endangerment or unlawful neglect of a child.
Police and the solicitor's office are also looking at the possibility of an unspecified weapons charge.

Friends from Aiken County were quick to come to Williamson's defense.

"She's law and order, she's firm behind family," friend Mickey Williams said.

"I know a lot of people that tote guns, they got licence to tote guns, but it could easily happen to one of them," friend Rickey Williams said.

Store officials say the store was closed for about an hour after the shooting.

"Everyone at Sam's Club is deeply saddened by today's tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers are with the little girl and her family," said Tara Stewart, South Carolina spokesperson for Wal-Mart and Sam's Club.

Stewart said as of right now they do not have a policy on concealed weapons, but after this incident, that could change.

"While we don't have a sign posted, I think everyone knows the rules and laws. We are working with police to make changes if necessary," said Stewart.

Another interview was scheduled for Thursday, at which time police expect her to be represented by an attorney.

Reported by Stewart Moore, Jordan Sandler and Jack Kuenzie

Updated by Bryce Mursch

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