What started as a casual evening at the local Macy's in Grand Traverse Mall took a spine-shuddering turn Friday when a 4-year-old found a loaded handgun in a bathroom stall.
On Friday, Cody Swy, 26, took his daughter Sarae, 4, and son Landon, 3, to Macy's to pick up some dress shirts when his eldest said she had to go to the restroom.
Since the kids are young, the dad took both of them into the men's room, placing Sarae in the handicap stall and Landon in the smaller one next to it. Swy was giving his children some privacy, standing right outside of the stall doors when Sarae asked her dad for help identifying something in the stall with her: a gun.
"What's this, dad?" Swy remembers his daughter asking. When he poked his head into the stall, he saw his daughter sitting on the toilet holding a Ruger handgun, pointing it directly at his chest.
"I didn't freak out because I knew if I freaked out, she could have jolted and possibly fired," said Swy who trained with the national guard and previously worked as a military police officer.
"I know how to talk someone down with a weapon, I've been there, but it's never been own flesh and blood," he said, noting his 4-year-old was holding the pistol casually, as if it were a Nerf gun.
"Baby put it down. Put it down," he remembers telling Sarae as he backed out of the stall, instructing her to point the end of the gun toward the floor. Once she had done this, Swy re-entered the stall where he grabbed the gun, as well as a holster that was sitting on the handrail.
Once a deputy from the Grand Traverse Sheriff's Office arrived at the scene, Swy was brought into a private room, where they pulled back the weapon. A bullet came out of the chamber and there was a full magazine behind it. Grand Traverse County Sheriff's Office is now in possession of the gun.
According to the department, the case is still under investigation. The gun's serial number was inputted into their system — which is connected to a statewide and national system — however, according to Captain Chris Clark they were told records do not exist.
"We are waiting on the agency in Lansing to do a manual check, which can take a week or two," Clark said, noting that in the meantime the department can reach out to Macy's to possibly view surveillance video or the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives to see where the gun was sold.
Swy says he has not heard from the sheriff's office since Friday, but he is hopeful that "justice is served."
"Hopefully they can trace the serial number so whoever did this can get the punishment they deserve," he said, suggesting possible charges such as unlawful carry of a firearm, child endangerment, and neglect of a loaded firearm.
"This is the first time my kids have ever been around a gun," Swy said, noting that they are not even in kindergarten yet. "People have been commenting on Facebook saying we need to teach the kids gun safety, they are 3 and 4, half the time they don't even listen about picking up toys."
According to data collected by USA TODAY and the Associated Press, between January 1, 2014, and June 30, 2016, 11 Michigan children under the age of 12 either killed themselves or were mistakenly shot and killed by another child. The state was one of four nationally — in a group with Ohio, Texas and Georgia — that had more than 10 accidental gun deaths involving kids under the age of 12.
As America grapples with out of control gun violence and a series of high-profile mass shootings, including the horrific tragedy in Las Vegas a week ago where nearly 60-people were killed, Swy is still trying to make sense of what happened.
"Las Vegas was the first thing that went through my mind," the construction worker said. "This stuff just happened in Las Vegas with the weapons and that sort. Right now, nobody knows what happened with the gun Sarae found. Was it a guy who took it off and put it on the handrail and just forgot? Or it could have been someone planning on going into the mall and shooting it up and then got cold feet and left it there. After all that is happening in the world, I have no idea, especially in America right now, with the president, the left and the right, all this hate, the NFL, I have no idea what's going on. America is at it's most crazy point ever."
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