Family identifies 4-year-old fatally shot, says father arrested for negligent homicide
“That was my baby,” cried grandmother Tomaka Stokes. “That was my world.”
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A family is in mourning after the accidental shooting death of a 4-year-old in the Seabrook neighborhood of New Orleans.
The boy, who family have identified as 4-year-old Keith Jermal Jones Jr., was in his home at the Lakewood Pointe Apartments late Thursday. New Orleans Police confirm officers were dispatched around 10:30 at night to reports of a juvenile shooting victim.
Jones’ grandmother, Tomaka Stokes, said her grandchild was her world.
“He didn’t get a chance,” Stokes sobbed. “He didn’t get a chance.”
Stokes said the boy’s father, who has not been identified by police, went into the home to visit with his son. She said he went into the room and sat down on the bed where Jones was playing on his tablet.
The father then slid his gun underneath a pillow on the bed.
“His dad came in the house. He went in the room with him,” Stokes said. “I walked in the room, he was laying on the bed playing on his tablet. His dad was sitting on the bed, on the end of the bed. All I know is I said, ‘Since you’re sitting here, can you watch your son?’”
But Stokes said there was miscommunication, and as she walked to the front door of the home, she turned around and the boy’s father was following behind her.
That’s when she said they heard the shot.
“His dad just ran back in the house,” Stokes said. “All I could do is I just laid beside him. And I just cuddled him.”
“I just felt so helpless,” she said through tears.
Distraught, Stokes and her family notified police. She said the boy’s father was completely broken, and that he turned himself into police on scene.
“That was my baby,” cried Stokes. “That was my world.”
Jones is the third juvenile to die of an accidental shooting in New Orleans this year, per data from the Metropolitan Crime Commission. Last year, two toddlers accidentally shot themselves, according to MCC data.
“A number of these in our own community are accidental shootings. No child should ever have a gun,” said Dr. Jennifer Avegno, Director of the New Orleans Department of Health. “It’s a tremendous problem, not only in our own community but around the country.”
Avegno said the city has partnered with LCMC, University Medical Center and Children’s Hospital for the Be SMART campaign, which targets messaging around safe gun storage and provides free gun locks and safes to the community.
“You want to talk to your children about guns, number one,” she said. “You want to model responsible behavior, and you want to secure your firearms always, and that means with the ammunition separate from the gun in a secure box that only you can open and in a very secure place.”
The Be SMART campaign has had successful results, spreading the message around the importance of gun safety and preventing future incidents, Avegno said.
But there’s still more work to be done.
“We want adults to be talking about this, not only with each other but also with their children,” Avegno said.
Dr. Fabienne Gray, a pediatric surgeon at Children’s Hospital and the LSU Department of Surgery, said gunfire has been the leading cause of death in Louisiana for the past decade, and took the first place nationally in recent years.
“[Kids] explore their world, and that is very natural for them. So making it as hard as possible for the kids to access firearms is one of the easiest ways that we can sort of change that,” Gray said. “The gun safes also help prevent your guns from being stolen.”
Both Gray and Avegno are major advocates on the local level for the widespread distribution of gun storage safes, which Avegno said are being given away for free and even feature a fingerprint-enabled lock so only the gun owner can access it.
You can find more information about the Be SMART campaign, and even order a gun lock to be delivered to your home (if you’re an Orleans resident) by clicking here.
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