HELENA-WEST HELENA, Ark. - A 3-year-old Arkansas boy is in a Memphis hospital after being accidentally shot in the face with a flare gun.
Helena-West Helena Police said the accident happened around 4 p.m. Saturday at the family's home.
Family identified the boy as Eddie Hawkins Jr., saying he lost his left eye but will survive.
Police initially said the toddler was playing with the flare gun when he accidentally shot himself, but his family told a different story. They said it was actually Eddie's 15-year-old cousin who pulled the trigger.
“My brother, he was playing with his Nerf gun that he had just got, and my cousin, he had a flare gun, and I guess he had forgot that he’d put the bullet in the flare gun and he shot towards his face," said Eddie's 13-year-old sister, Julissa Hawkins.
Julissa said Eddie’s two other sisters, his father and his grandmother were there when it happened and the adults had warned their cousin repeatedly to put away the flare gun. He didn't listen.
“When my cousin shot it, they tried to stop it, and it already had hit him in the eye," said Eddie's 14-year-old sister, Sierra Hawkins.
Julissa said she was initially angry at her cousin after the accident for ignoring the warnings.
“Why would you shoot the flare gun in the first place? Why would you have the flare gun inside the house? That don’t make sense," she said. “A flare gun is for emergencies.”
After it happened, Sierra and Julissa said their cousin tried to cover up the incident so he wouldn’t get into trouble, telling officers Eddie had accidentally shot himself.
“Accident or no accident, don’t lie [and say] you didn’t do it. Just tell the truth," Julissa said.
Police said the Department of Human Services was called, but it wasn't immediately clear if an investigation had been opened.
The girls said their father is devastated and worried about losing custody of his son.
“He was just crying," Sierra said. "He says he’s scared that he’s gonna lose his child.”
Julissa said her little brother will be undergoing surgery to have his eye replaced with a glass eye and will likely be in the hospital for another two months.
Investigators said Sunday they’re still trying to get to the truth of what actually happened, because they were given conflicting statements.
Police Chief James Smith also said charges are expected to be filed in the case.