Authorities believe 2-year-old responsible for fatal shooting of father

Divine Vaniah Chambliss

Divine Vaniah Chambliss was the father of seven children – six sons and one daughter – as well as two stepchildren. (Photo: Alabama.com)

Authorities are combing through evidence in the death of a 31-year-old Hoover, Alabama, man suspected to have been accidentally shot in the head by his 2-year-old son, who was found with a loaded handgun.

The toddler’s mother spent the day at work while Divine Vaniah Chambliss stayed at the apartment with the child, but when the mother returned home just after 3 p.m. Tuesday, she found Chambliss lying in the bed unresponsive, as the toddler apparently told her, “I hurt my dad,” according to a report from local media.

The mother immediately called 911 and officers arrived within minutes, but less than 10 minutes after they arrived, Chambliss was pronounced dead.

Authorities said there was no sign of forced entry or otherwise any indication that anyone else was in the home at the time of the shooting, and although the Jefferson County Coroner’s Office has not yet released an official ruling, at this time all of the evidence points to the toddler as the one who fired the gun.

The Hoover Police Department released a statement Wednesday which, in part, read:

Detectives have spent the past 24 hours collecting and analyzing evidence, interviewing numerous individuals and constructing a meticulous timeline of events. Detectives have considered every possible scenario in an attempt to determine who shot the victim. There is still no indication that an intruder or any third person was involved in this incident. Physical evidence has also helped us determine that the victim could not have shot himself. All indications at this point still lead us to believe the child found the loaded handgun and accidentally shot his father.

Chambliss was an avid church member who apparently provided security for his church. Family members confirmed that he kept a gun with him almost all of the time, but always kept the safety on.

Chambliss family

Chambliss was one of seven children who grew up in a deeply religious home with a close-knit family. (Photo: Alabama.com)

Authorities believe Chambliss was napping with the toddler when the child awakened before his father and found the loaded handgun beneath a pillow. However, they’re still working to determine how the small child was able to release the safety and pull the trigger.

The family said they are still in shock over the tragedy, but are praying that the child will not remember the incident. Hoover police Capt. Gregg Rector called the accident an “absolute horrible tragedy” and said their hearts go out to the Chambliss family, who is in need of prayers and support at this time.

Those who knew Chambliss described him as funny and outgoing, and a man who loved life, his family and his children. He was said to also love motorcycles, music and art, and “could draw anything,” according to his mother, who said of the accident, “It was a bad way for him to go.”