Father arrested after 5-year-old girl’s gun death in Merced, police say

Site of shooting
(Los Angeles Times)

A 5-year-old girl was shot and killed by another child inside her Merced home Thursday afternoon, police said.

Officers responded to reports of a gunshot around 2:30 p.m. in the 1600 block of East 26th Street. Police also received information that a 5-year-old shooting victim had been dropped off at Mercy Medical Center.

“After a preliminary investigation, detectives believe the 5-year-old victim was accidentally shot by another juvenile family member,” police said in a statement.

Rodney Matthews
Rodney Matthews was arrested on suspicion of child endangerment that resulted in the death of a child.
(Merced Police Department)

The girl’s father, Rodney Matthews, 44, drove her to the hospital, police said. He was seen leaving the medical center but evaded officers and eventually led them on a high-speed pursuit.

He later was arrested on suspicion of child endangerment that resulted in the death of a child, felony reckless driving while evading officers and a prohibited person in possession of firearms and ammunition.

An estimated 4.6 million American children live in homes with at least one gun that is loaded and unlocked, according to research by the Gun Safety Support Fund, a nonprofit that aims to reduce gun violence. There have been at least 229 unintentional shootings by children in 2020, resulting in 97 deaths and 139 injuries.


“Responsible gun storage — storing guns locked, unloaded and separate from ammunition — can save children’s lives,” the nonprofit says.

Det. Sgt. Robert Solis of the Merced Police Department said that the juvenile suspected in the shooting was at home with his mother Friday and that charges would not be filed against him.

“Obviously it’s traumatic, and we don’t think this is an intentional act,” Solis said. “It was accidental. ... Our goal is to hopefully get this child the help and the counseling he may need.”

Merced Police have not released any further information about the shooter or the family, but they are asking anyone with information to call (209) 385-4703.

“It’s unfortunate these children had access to these firearms, to tragic results,” Solis said.