A 15-year-old girl and a 24-year-old woman were charged with illegal possession of a handgun yesterday in the accidental shooting of a West Baltimore toddler.
The youngster, 20-month-old Chantell Johnson, who was shot once in the chest Monday afternoon, was in stable condition and "very lucky to be alive" after surgery, said her doctor at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center.
"If the bullet had been an inch lower, or an inch to the right, it would have hit the heart or hit the windpipe and she wouldn't be here," said Dr. Hal Shaffner. Chantell is the sixth gunshot victim under the age of 15 in Maryland this year, said Johns Hopkins Childrens Center officials.
Police said Chantell was accidentally shot when the gun went off after being handed to the 15-year-old, whose name was not released because she is a juvenile. The teen-ager told detectives that she had found the gun, but police now believe it belonged to 24-year-old Tohna B. Johnson, who lives in the same building in the 2500 block of Linden Avenue as does Chantell's family.
Police said Ms. Johnson and the 15-year-old were in front of the building about 5:15 p.m. when the woman for some reason handed the gun to the girl, who put it into her coat pocket. The gun discharged, the bullet striking Chantell, who was sitting several feet away with some other children.
The bullet entered Chantell's chest about an inch above her heart, broke her collarbone and traveled down into her arm, damaging the blood vessels. She underwent about two hours of surgery to set her collarbone and repair the blood vessels, Dr. Shaffner said.
"It's a complex surgery to repair the blood vessels in a baby that small," he said. But Chantell was moving her fingers in her left hand yesterday and seemed to be responding well. "We hoping she'll make a complete recovery," he said.
Yesterday, the 15-year-old girl was charged as a juvenile with handgun possession and released to her parents. Ms. Johnson, also charged with handgun possession, was released on $5,000 bail.
As her mother and father kept vigil at her bedside, Chantell slept peacefully yesterday, seemingly oblivious to her near tragedy. One of her tiny arms was connected to an intravenous tube. The other clutched a brown teddy bear.
But her parents were far from oblivious, saying they were angry about the shooting and the careless way the gun was handled.
"I'm really mad that my child has to lay there and suffer because of the carelessness and stupidity of someone," said Victoria Platt, the child's mother. "I almost lost my baby yesterday."