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A woman in Tennessee is facing felony charges after allegedly killing a 4-year-old girl in her girlfriend’s custody with a handgun.
Breanna Gayle Runions, 25, reportedly shot the child in the chest at point-blank range just before noon on Aug. 27.
Runions, who has a handgun permit, initially told authorities that she was demonstrating “firearms safety” to the 4-year-old when the gun fired.
The child was reportedly in the custody of Runions’ girlfriend, Christina Daniels.
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“Runions was not related either biologically or legally to the victim. Runions’ girlfriend, Christina Daniel, evidently had obtained custody recently from the victim’s biological mother, Josie Starbuck,” Rockwood Chief of Police Kelly Pittman told Fox News Digital. “Runions was not acting as a foster parent in any capacity, as far as we know.”
Runions claimed that she removed the magazine from the gun to show that it was safe before accidentally firing, but this narrative was reportedly disputed by Daniels and another minor who witnessed the event.
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“This version was disputed somewhat by both Christina Daniels and another witness in the home who was also a minor,” according to a memo provided to Fox News Digital by the district attorney’s office.
It continued, “Instead, it may appear that the two minors were being punished by Runions striking them with a sandal and placing them in separate corners of the adults’ bedroom for not waking the adults up when the minors awoke, and because the two minors took and ate food intended for Runions’ girlfriend, Daniels.”
Authorities say Runions pressed the gun directly to the child’s chest and pulled the trigger, fatally wounding the girl.
A person holds a handgun. (JC/TRA/Reuters)
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Immediately after wounding the 4-year-old, Runions and Daniels reportedly drove to meet responding emergency medical support at a nearby Walmart parking lot. The child was taken to the Roane Medical Center and was pronounced dead.
Runions was arrested on felony charges of Aggravated Child Abuse and First Degree Murder.
The Tennesse Bureau of Investigations and Rockwood Police are investigating the circumstances of Runions’ and Daniels’ custody of the victim, who was not their child.
The child’s mother has spoken out about the 4-year-old’s death. (STEFANI REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)
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“TBI and Rockwood PD were directed by DAG Johnson to contact the Department of Childrens Services as to the other child in the residence,” according to the memo from the district attorney’s office. “Further information is needed to better understand how and why the children were living with Runions and Daniels who are not the victim’s parents.”
The child’s mother, Josie Gunter, spoke to local outlet WBIR after the incident, saying that her 4-year-old was with the couple as she tried to become financially stable.
“My best friend was helping me take care of my children while I can get a house underneath my feet, a car running, just so I can make it to and from work,” Gunter told the outlet. “I was, I’m working two locations.”
“I feel like it’s my fault that I let her be there,” Gunter also told WBIR. “I should have been more attentive. I wish I could have been a better mother for her to pay attention. It was a court order decision.”
Runions is currently undergoing a mental health assessment and is being held at Roane County Jail.
Timothy Nerozzi is a writer for Fox News Digital. You can follow him on Twitter @timothynerozzi and can email him at [email protected]