A gun kept underneath a New Orleans East woman’s pillow went off and killed her 3-year-old grandson early Wednesday morning, leaving neighbors in her quiet subdivision in shock.
Just hours after the shooting, police said they had arrested 42-year-old grandmother Deonca Kennedy in connection with the shooting of the toddler, which happened about 2 a.m. in the 5600 block of Red Maple Drive.
Kennedy was booked on counts of negligent homicide, second-degree cruelty to a juvenile and child desertion.
Detectives do not believe Kennedy fired the weapon. Pointing to the position of her gun — which was found still underneath the pillow in the bed where the young boy was shot — they said they think Kennedy was sleeping when the gun discharged.
The toddler was pronounced dead after being taken to a hospital.
Kennedy refused to give a formal statement to detectives, according to police, although it is not clear whether she told investigators anything before she was taken to NOPD headquarters.
Police said no one else was inside the home at the time of the shooting.
A string of Christmas decorations, as well as candy cane ornaments, lay outside the house Wednesday morning. One neighbor said the woman he knew as “Mrs. Dee” generally kept to herself.
Kennedy worked as a security guard. Police said in a warrant that they found her uniform with her name tag a few feet from where the young boy was shot.
Court records show Kennedy was booked on counts of public intimidation and solicitation for murder in 2005, although those charges were later refused.
Further details on that case were not immediately available Wednesday.
Magistrate Commissioner Robert Blackburn ordered Kennedy held without bail until a Friday hearing. He also appointed the Orleans Public Defenders to represent her, over the objections of staff attorney Kenneth Hardin.
Public defenders began refusing to represent defendants accused of serious crimes last week, citing the crushing workloads of the office’s attorneys. Some magistrate commissioners have indicated that they will order public defenders to represent poor clients regardless, which may set up a larger legal standoff as cases are accepted by the District Attorney’s Office.
“The Public Defenders Office is appointed. Whether or not you do the work, that’s on you,” Blackburn said. “I’m going to put you on notice for contempt.”
Blackburn said his anger was not directed toward Hardin but toward the defenders’ office as a whole.
“I’m putting you all on notice. You’re walking a fine line,” Blackburn said. “Your office doesn’t have the discretion to (say), ‘I’m going to pick this. I’m going to pick that one.’ Ridiculous.”