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It’s a difficult crime to fathom — police say while an elderly man sat dying from an accidental gunshot wound, a woman robbed him instead of helping him.

It happened in a Safeway parking lot in Mt. Vernon, Wash., and the woman is now in the Skagit County Jail on theft and trafficking stolen property charges.

As the 77-year-old Illinois man was bleeding to death, people who heard the gunshot rushed in to help. Mount Vernon police say 37-year-old Laura Michelle Cowan rushed in as well.

According to court documents, Cowan ran to the passenger side of the man’s Jeep and jumped in. Police say she grabbed the victim’s wallet — which was exposed on the center console — and also a GPS unit, all while the man was likely still alive.

When first responders got there, she gave them her name as a witness, but then left the scene.

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Medics rushed the man to the hospital, but he died from blood loss.

Police determined he accidentally shot himself and struck a major artery in his leg.

After discovering items were missing from the vehicle, detectives tracked down and re-interviewed witnesses, including Cowan.

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They say she eventually admitted to the theft as well as to ordering a friend get rid of the stolen wallet.

The victim leaves behind four children, nearly a dozen grandchildren and a widow.

Trying to come to terms with the tragic death is heartbreaking enough; knowing there’s a chance — no matter how slim — someone could have prevented it but chose instead to capitalize on it is devastating.

KIRO 7 |