Rutledge had taken her son, as well as her nieces and nephews, to Hayden Walmart so they could spend their holiday gift cards. She was carrying a concealed handgun in a purse specifically designed to do so — it had been a Christmas gift from her husband, Colt.
Her father-in-law, Terry Rutledge, told the Washington Post that the gun was “zippered closed” inside the new purse, which she momentarily left unattended while shopping.
“An inquisitive 2-year-old boy reached into the purse, unzipped the compartment, found the gun and shot his mother in the head,” Rutledge said. “It’s a terrible, terrible incident” — and one which his son is not handling well.
“[Colt] has a 2-year-old boy right now who doesn’t know where his mom is and he will have to explain why his mom isn’t coming home. And then, later on in his life, as he questions it more, he’ll again have to explain what happened, so we’ll have to relive this several times over,” Rutledge said.
Rutledge also said that he is angry that his daughter-in-law’s death has become a talking point for both sides in the gun rights debate.
“They are painting Veronica as irresponsible, and that is not the case,” he said. “I brought my son up around guns, and he has extensive experience shooting it. And Veronica had had hand gun classes; they’re both licensed to carry, and this wasn’t just some purse she had thrown her gun into.”
Both Colt and Veronica were avid gun enthusiasts who never left the home unarmed. “They carried one every day of their lives, and they shot extensively,” Rutledge said. “They loved it. Odd as it may sound, we are gun people.”
Veronica Rutledge — who earned a degree in chemical engineering — worked as a researcher at the Idaho National Laboratory, an installation that assists the United States Department of Energy with nuclear and energy research. She had published several articles during her tenure there.