LUMBERTON, NC (WMBF) – A 3-year-old child died after accidentally shooting himself at a store in Lumberton Sunday morning, according to a news release from police.
At about 11 a.m. on Sunday, officers were dispatched to a store in the 2200 block of MLK Drive, according to Lumberton Police. Officers found a 3-and-a-half-year-old child had accidentally shot himself with a handgun that had been stored behind the counter of the store.
The father, 56-year-old Manal Abdelaziz, who is the owner and manager of the store, reported the shooting immediately, the release states. The child was taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Abdelaziz said his son's name was Munal Abdelaziz Jr., although he was better known as 'Cash.' He said Cash loved to accompany him to the store, Brother's Mini Shop.
“He loved life. He loved people," Abdelaziz said. "He was a lot of help for anything. He liked to work. He would say, ‘I love to work.’”
Cash especially loved making the customer's smile.
“I met Cash this summer when the store first opened and he ran up to me and jumped into my arms and wouldn’t let me go and I fell in love with him," said Adia Peguise, who is now training at the store and used to babysit Cash frequently.
On Saturday night, Peguise tucked Cash into bed in a room next to the store because he wasn’t feeling well.
“He had an ear ache," she said. "I gave him some medicine and I was mad because he wouldn’t eat his chicken noodle soup.”
That was the last time she saw him.
“They called for me the next morning. His father called because he said he woke up asking for me and by the time I called him back he was gone," she said.
Abdelaziz said Cash spent Sunday morning sitting on a stool next to him behind the counter. Then, Abdelaziz started chatting with a customer.
“I was talking to him, business and different things," he said. "All we heard was something happening and I looked and, oh my god, my son is on the floor.”
Peguise said the gun belongs to her. She would keep it at the store for security purposes. However, it wasn’t usually on a low counter underneath the cash register.
"Always keep the gun away from here. Hide it under a t-shirt, put it in a higher place," Abdelaziz said. "At that time it wasn’t there. It was in the wrong place.”
Investigators are submitting the case file to the Robeson County District Attorney’s office for review, to determine if charges will be filed once the investigation is complete.
North Carolina does have a law specifically on storage of firearms to protect minors. That law makes it illegal for a gun to be kept somewhere where a child can easily access it and fire it.
Anyone with information concerning this incident may contact Sgt. Pete Locklear at the Lumberton Police Department 910-671-3845.