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Kansas man gets probation after toddler found his loaded gun and killed his daughter

Kansas dad Chance Smith’s toddler daughter died last year when another child in the house got hold of Smith’s loaded gun and accidentally shot and killed the little girl. This week, Smith got one year’s probation in a plea deal.
Kansas dad Chance Smith’s toddler daughter died last year when another child in the house got hold of Smith’s loaded gun and accidentally shot and killed the little girl. This week, Smith got one year’s probation in a plea deal. Lawrence Police Department

More than a year after Chance Smith’s toddler daughter died in an accidental shooting while she was in his care, a judge granted the Lawrence man one year of probation.

Her funeral was held on her second birthday.

In September, Smith pleaded no contest to two felony counts of aggravated child endangerment for the September 2017 shooting, according to the Lawrence Journal-World.

On Wednesday in Douglas County District Court, Smith was sentenced to 12 months probation with Community Corrections, the Douglas County District Attorney’s Office told The Kansas City Star.

In court, Judge Paula Martin said she had considered that the 33-year-old Smith had “little to no criminal history,” the Journal-World wrote.

Lawrence police arrested Smith in June, WIBW of Topeka reported at the time. The shooting happened at a home in the 600 block of North Michigan Street around 10:30 a.m. on Sept. 22, according to the TV station.

The Lawrence Journal-World’s reporting on the case described a harrowing scene that morning, when Smith was watching his nearly 2-year-old daughter, Autumn Grace, and a 2-year-old relative. The relationship between the two children has not been revealed publicly.

Smith went outside to let the dogs out and smoke a cigarette, according to the newspaper, and when he went back inside the little boy was crying and his daughter was upstairs in Smith’s bedroom, shot. Police found a Glock 9 mm handgun in the room, the newspaper reported.

Lawrence police told WIBW that “despite life-saving measures attempted by first responders,” Autumn died a short time later.

Her memorial service was six days later on her birthday at Christ Community Church in Lawrence, according to her obituary. She was survived by her dad; her mom, Megan Smith; her brother, Liam; grandparents; great-grandparents; and “many aunts, uncles and cousins who loved her dearly,” her obituary said.

According to the Journal-World, Smith told police he usually kept his gun on a closet shelf but for some reason that day put it under his mattress.

He had faced a felony charge of involuntary manslaughter, as well as charges related to endangering the lives of his daughter and the little boy, KSNT in Topeka reported in June.

Smith was featured in a June 2017 story in the Journal-World about a program called Healthy Dads Healthy Families sponsored by the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department.

The classes for dads and “father figures” take place at locations around Lawrence, according to the Health Department’s website.

Some men are ordered by the courts to participate, but others, like Smith, can choose to take them.

The Journal-World reported that Smith’s wife had moved out of the family home with their children and said she wouldn’t return until he took the class.

Smith suffered a head injury at his workplace in 2015 that left him with a traumatic brain injury, making it impossible for him to work and turning him into a stay-at-home dad, according to the newspaper.

“Chance and Megan said that when she moved out, Chance had been depressed, drinking and abusing drugs, and that Megan feared for her and the children’s safety,” the Journal-World wrote, which reported that Megan Smith was happy with how the class helped her husband.

The district attorney’s office told The Star that special conditions were placed on Smith’s probation. He can’t possess any firearms. And he must compete another parenting class — this time by court order.

Wichita police Sgt. Robert Henning on an accidental shooting at a home in the 1400 block of East Pike, near Hydraulic and Lincoln, at around 8:20 p.m. Monday. A man and child were playing with toy guns when a man was shot in the leg with a real gun.



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