A Texas mother told police that her toddler died after accidentally shooting herself, but an autopsy contradicting her story prompted her arrest on Friday.
Two-year-old Juelz Gonzalez died in February after suffering a gunshot wound to her face when police were initially told that the child shot herself in a tragic accident.
However, an autopsy revealed that she could not have shot herself because the gunshot was from a distance—not at close proximity, local television news station KABB reported.
The toddler’s mother, 35-year-old Jessica Cantu, was arrested on Friday and faces a new charge of child endangerment, according to Bexar County records. Her boyfriend, Joshua Ramirez, is also charged related to allegations that a gun he owned was used to kill Gonzalez. He was not legally allowed to possess a firearm due to a previous felony conviction, according to KABB.
The Bexar County district attorney’s office told the news station that it has not yet ruled out any future charges against either adult.
“Initially it was reported to police that the child shot herself,” the San Antonio Police Department said in a statement to the news station. “Through the course of the investigation investigators gathered additional evidence including the medical examiner’s report that determined the child had not shot herself. With enough probable cause they were able to issue a warrant for child endangerment.”
Cantu’s arrest warrant said she and her four-year-old daughter were in another room at the time of the shooting, and heard a loud “pop,” according to the news station. She is being held on a $150,000 bond.
Many details about the shooting, including who may have shot the toddler, remained unknown to the public on Saturday. The shooting remains under investigation from local and county authorities.
While searching Cantu’s phone, investigators found that she talked with somebody about purchasing the same type of gun that was found at the crime scene, and spoke with several people about the type of weapon her daughter shot herself with, according to local news station WOAI-TV.
Gonzalez’s father, Julio Gonzalez, told KABB he was not at the home when the shooting occurred.
Gun Violence Plaguing America
Gun violence involving children occurs from time to time in the United States as the nation continues to cope with high gun violence.
Nearly 1,300 children or teenagers die each year from shootings, according to Nationwide Children’s Hospital. So far this year, at least 773 children or teenagers have been killed by gun violence, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit that tracks shootings in the U.S.
The arrest comes as a deadly school shooting in nearby Uvalde has renewed efforts in passing gun safety reforms intended to prevent further gun violence against children across the country. Nationwide Children’s Hospital recommends the best way to prevent gun-related injuries to children is to remove guns from the home. However, if they are in the home, guns should be kept locked and unloaded to prevent tragedies from occurring.
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