Gun deaths of St. Louis children rise to 22 as 3-year-old shoots self in head

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(ST. LOUIS) -- A 3-year-old boy accidentally shot and killed himself in the St. Louis area, bringing the total number of children killed in gun-related incidents in the St. Louis metropolitan area to 22 so far this year, according to a count by the Associated Press.

The St. Louis County Police Department charged the boy’s father Friday with one count of endangering the welfare of a child in the first degree. Rodney March II, 28, is being held on a $100,000 cash bond.

March left a loaded .40 caliber Glock within reach of the boy and the child, who shared his father's name, was able to get the gun and shoot himself in the head Thursday, police said in a statement to ABC News.

“Ladies and gentlemen it is tragic any time we lose somebody in any manner. Certainly more tragic when we lose somebody to gunfire. And it is certainly beyond the pale and heartbreaking when we lose a child anywhere in the communities we live in,” St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said during a press conference on Thursday.

“So this is heartbreaking. It’s heartbreaking for the family, for those involved and I will tell you, that it’s also heartbreaking for the police officers who are involved in this,” Belmar said at the press conference.

The incident happened at the boy's home and he was then driven to the hospital by his mother. While en route, the mother flagged down police for help.

County police said they quickly began to administer medical assistance to the boy and then moved him into one of their vehicles before rushing him to a local hospital. While one officer was driving, the department said the other officer tried to administer life-saving treatment to the child. The child was pronounced dead at the hospital.

The toddler was not the only child to be shot to death in the St. Louis metro area on Thursday. Authorities said 13-year-old Clifford Swan III was killed Thursday night. Police have arrested an 18-year-old man suspected in the killing, but have not released the suspect's name.

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