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As his dad slept, a 2-year-old found his gun and fatally shot himself, Utah police say

Tasman Maile. Photo from Salt Lake County Jail

When police arrived at the West Valley City, Utah, home of Tasman Maile in late May, they found his 2-year-old son on the floor of his bedroom, unconscious and bleeding from the head.

Next to the boy was Maile's Walther CCP handgun.

Maile told police that he had been sleeping at the time of the incident. The loaded handgun was within the reach of the toddler, who shot himself, said West Valley Police Department spokeswoman Roxeanne Vainuku.

"The child was taken to the hospital in extremely critical condition," Vainuku told The Washington Post. "And it was apparent he was not going to survive his injuries. He was put on life support in effort to gather the family together so they could say their final goodbyes."

The boy was taken off life support after nearly three days and died soon after.

Maile was charged Thursday, June 7, in Salt Lake County with child-abuse homicide in connection with his son's death. Maile has also been charged with possession of a controlled substance, obstruction of justice and three counts of possession of a firearm by a restricted person, since he is a felon.

Vainuku said Maile should never should have had access to a firearm in the first place. It not clear how he obtained the weapons.

Vainuku said police recovered drugs and weapons from a dumpster near Maile's home. According to court records cited by the Salt Lake Tribune, witnesses saw Maile rush to the dumpster to throw away a bucket that police soon found contained a handgun magazine, two jars of marijuana and a digital scale. In a backpack they found two other guns and a case for the Walther CCP handgun, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill told the Tribune prosecutors believe Maile's negligence - leaving the gun in reach of the child - caused the boy's death.

"This is a little bit different than somebody who takes their weapon and puts it in a case up in the closet somewhere, hidden behind the clothes, and some child inadvertently finds it and shoots themselves," he said.

The boy's grandmother, Tule Iloa, told KUTV that she was in New Zealand visiting her mother when she got the phone call that her grandson, who she identified as Puniani Maile, was in critical condition in the hospital.

She rushed home just in time to make it to the hospital before the boy was taken off life support, she said. Maile was on the phone from jail to say goodbye.

"We know that he loved Puniani so much," she said.

It was not immediately clear whether Maile had an attorney. Maile has since been released on bond from the Salt Lake County Jail.

Story by Meagan Flynn. Flynn is a reporter on The Washington Post's Morning Mix team. She was previously a reporter at the Houston Chronicle and the Houston Press.

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