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Gunshot cuts toddler's miracle life tragically short

Published September 16, 2012 4:26 pm

Family says goodbye to police officer's 2-year-old son, who accidentally shot himself.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Linkin Leatham had the odds stacked against him when he arrived in the world in April 2010.

Linkin was born in a Provo hospital to Owen and Melinda Leatham, but he suffered from "considerable medical obstacles" and was taken to Primary Children's Medical Center.

While some doubted whether Linkin would ever live a normal life, to the delight of his family he stunned his doctors with a quick recovery. He was out of the hospital in two months, the medical complications having left no lasting damage to his organs, and went on to become a normal little boy who loved trucks, airplanes and dancing.

"He was a miracle from the beginning, a fighter from the moment he entered this world," the boy's obituary reads.

On Saturday his family said goodbye to Linkin at a funeral at a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stake center. The 2-year-old's life was cut short Tuesday when he happened upon his father's gun, left out at eye level in their Springville home and accidentally shot himself.

Both of Linkin's parents were home when the gun went off, though neither saw it happen, said Deputy Utah County Attorney Tim Taylor on Saturday. Police and paramedics rushed to their home, but Linkin died in his parents' arms.

Owen Leatham has been a Springville police officer for several years, after a stint with the Utah Department of Corrections. However, the handgun Linkin shot himself with was not his father's service weapon, and did not have any safeties designed into the model, Taylor said.

Taylor's office is handling the case since Leatham is a city employee. Melinda Leatham is, too.

It's a mystery to the investigators at this point how the toddler was able to pick up the gun, aim it at himself and pull the trigger. Investigators are waiting for the results of Linkin's autopsy for clues — such as the bullet's trajectory — which is a process that could take several weeks, Taylor said.

Linkin's family donated his heart and corneas in hopes they might bring life and sight to another child. The organs were the last gift of Linkin's short life of bringing life and joy to other people.

Linkin was always sharing his infectious smile, running, playing and making people laugh. To have known Linkin was to be "wrapped around his tiny little finger," his obituary reads.

"Linkin was much loved and will be greatly missed," the obituary adds.

The incident reminds Clark Aposhian, chairman of the Utah Shooting Sports Council, of a similar tragedy in Sandy last July. Two-and-a-half year old Ethan Hearty got a hold of a gun in his grandparents' Sandy home and accidentally shot and killed himself.

Aposhian urged all gun owners to lock up their firearms; hiding it or keeping it out of reach is not enough. He also encouraged age-appropriate instruction: Young children should be told not to touch guns and what to do if they find a gun; once they are old enough, they should be taught how to safely handle guns.

"A moment of complacency leads to a lifetime of regret," Aposhain said. "Once we realize that we are getting complacent, we should redouble our efforts to secure [guns] appropriately."

These tragedies are harsh realizations that it can happen to anyone, even those with training, he said.

A trust fund in Linkin's name has been set up at America First Credit Union.

Linkin is survived by his older brother, Strider.

mmcfall@sltrib.com