In the last three months, five accidental shootings in Baton Rouge have left four young people dead, the last two of whom were shot in the head this week and died at a local hospital.
Authorities say they are disturbed by the rash of accidental shootings in recent weeks and the too-easy access children seem to have to unsecured guns in households in Baton Rouge.
Baton Rouge police have investigated at least five life-threatening accidental shootings between young people since mid-December. In two of the cases, a family member shot a relative; the others involved friends or acquaintances.
East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore III said the number of accidental shootings at this time of year is unsettling. He said it is unusual to see so many during the winter months.
“I’ve seen more of this in the summer time than this time of year,” Moore said. “I don’t like what I’m seeing here in these months when school is in.”
Moore was among law enforcement and community leaders who were busy on Saturday collecting firearms in exchange for gas money as part of a program they hope will lead to fewer guns getting into the wrong hands.
Officials have been unable to pinpoint where the majority of kids are getting guns, but they urge parents to be more aware of firearms in their households.
The series of accidental shooting incidents include one Thursday night in which Darneisha Williams, 16, suffered a gunshot to the head after her 16-year-old uncle was playing with a gun in the kitchen and it went off. After a short stay in the hospital on a ventilator, Williams died Saturday.
Her uncle was booked into juvenile detention on negligent injuring and illegal possession of a firearm by a juvenile. Police say they do not know how the teen got his hands on the gun.
A little more than 24 hours later, 17-year-old Gerald Levi was fatally wounded in a Tennessee Street home after Byron Devore, 20, FaceTiming on his cellphone accidentally shot the teenager in the head. Devore was arrested on a count of negligent homicide.
Three other life-threatening accidental shootings by young people occurred starting near the end of December.
On Dec. 23, a 16-year-old was rushed to the hospital after his cousin Corie Deshawn Burge, 18, accidentally shot him while they were playing inside a Jefferson Avenue house with what they thought was an unloaded gun. Burge was booked into Parish Prison on a count of negligent injuring and illegal use of a weapon.
On Jan. 9, a 20-year-old was fatally struck with a single bullet to the chest when he and a 19-year-old acquaintance were looking at a gun in the storage room of another Jefferson Avenue home. Information was not available late Saturday on whether that incident led to an arrest.
A week later, on Jan. 16, 17-year-old Devin Anderson was found dead outside a Birch Street home after Ahmad Antoine, also 17, accidentally shot Anderson with a shotgun while they were playing on the front porch. Antoine was arrested on a count of negligent homicide.
“In every one of these cases, a kid did not have to die,” Moore said.
Moore was at Saturday’s “Gas for Guns” event hosted by Circle K and the Baton Rouge Area Violence Elimination program. It was held at McKowen Missionary Baptist Church, and the objective was to reduce the number of unsecured firearms on the streets of Baton Rouge.
Authorities offered gas coupons valued anywhere from $50 to $300 in exchange for handguns and assault weapons, no questions asked.
“The whole idea behind ‘Gas for Guns’ is to get unsecured weapons out of the hands of kids,” Moore said.
Moore said the program was started around five years ago. He said the program, after the latest effort Saturday, will have taken about 750 guns off Baton Rouge streets since its inception. Authorities received 38 firearms in exchange for $2,150 in Circle K gas cards on Saturday.
Moore said the event generally attracts parents and grandparents who may be raising children in their homes and don’t want firearms within reach. Often, Moore said, they don’t realize guns they find and turn in have been stolen.
Moore said parents and grandparents need to enforce strict rules regarding guns.
“Parents have to be parents and not friends to their kids,” Moore said. “They need to be in charge of their kids and say ‘No guns in the house.’ ”
Mayor-President Kip Holden and Moore said parents need to work to be aware of any guns that may already be in the house and make sure they are not where kids can get to them.
“Whether it is young people or old people, guns are not things to play with,” Holden said. The accidental shootings “are happening at houses. We can’t police things we don’t know about.”
Moore said the tragedy in these shootings does not end with the loss of life.
“I can’t imagine (the shooters) having a very good life in the future thinking about what they’ve done to a friend or family member, all because they had a gun when they weren’t supposed to,” Moore said.
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