“‘Horrible tragedy’ is as close as I can come to putting words to it,” Hoover Police Capt. Gregg Rector told The Post Wednesday. “You think you’ve seen everything in this line of work and then something like this happens.”
Larry and Marilyn Chambliss told the Birmingham News on Thursday they believe their son was taking a nap when the toddler found a gun, and they pray their grandson won’t remember what happened. But the toddler has already said to his mother, “I hurt my Dad,” the paper reported.
“He was an inspirational person, a peacekeeper, a motivator,” Larry Chambliss said of his son, Divine.
Police said that Chambliss and the toddler were the only two people home at the time of the shooting, and the preliminary information they’ve received indicates the toddler “may have accidentally shot his father.” Police added that “there does not appear to be an intruder or any third person involved.”
Rector said police aren’t making an official determination of cause of death yet, “but all indications are that this was an accidental gunshot caused by the two-and-a-half year-old.” Rector added: “We’re certain that this is not a suicide.”
A semiautomatic handgun, which police believe Chambliss owned, was found in the apartment. “We don’t know where the child found the gun,” Rector said.
The mother and Chambliss also had a young daughter together who was in school at the time of the shooting. Chambliss would often come to the apartment to watch the children while the mother was at work, Rector added.
Family told the Birmingham News that Chambliss was an active church usher and security guard who always carried his gun, with the safety on, in his side holster because of the security work.
“It’s just 24 hours later and it’s still unbelievable,” Larry Chambliss told the local paper. “There’s an emptiness, a part of me that’s missing.”
An official ruling on cause of death could come as early as Thursday. The child’s mother is cooperating with authorities.
“People find it hard to believe that a two-and-a-half-year-old is physically capable of firing a handgun,” Rector said. “Sadly, I found numerous examples. It’s not unheard of.”
It’s unclear how many children unintentionally kill people with guns in the United States each year, as The Post has previously reported.
“We know how many times children die each year as a result of gun deaths,” Jon S. Vernick, co-director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, told The Post last year. “We don’t know how many times children pull the trigger and someone dies.”
[This post, originally published Aug. 19, has been updated.]