Detroit — After ordering a psychological examination for an 11-year-old boy to ensure he is competent to stand trial for the fatal shooting of a 3-year-old boy, a Wayne County judge offered advice to parents who allow kids access to guns.
“If you have guns at home, under your car seat or in the attic, here’s a message from 3rd Circuit Court: You need to lock them up,” Wayne Circuit Juvenile Division Judge Frank Szymanski said.
“Kids find things; that’s their nature,” Szymanski said. “A gun can be a magnet for a kid. If you’ve ever left a gun unattended for even five minutes, you can say a prayer you’re not involved in this nightmare of a case.”
The boy, whose name is being withheld because of his age, was charged last week with manslaughter without malice, as well as using a firearm during a felony.
Police say the older boy took a handgun from a closet at his father’s home Aug. 3 and tossed it from a window into the yard. He then retrieved the gun and fired it, striking 3-year-old Elijah Walker in the face, police said.
Elijah was pronounced dead at St. John Hospital.
During Monday’s brief hearing, Szymanski honored a request by the boy’s attorney, Linda McGee, to have the defendant undergo psychological testing to ensure he’s competent to stand trial, and whether he can be held criminally responsible for the shooting.
McGee also asked for an independent evaluation from psychologist Gerald Shiener, in addition to the court-ordered evaluation. Szymanski said he would allow the request after the defense provided him with unspecified information.
A Sept. 9 court date was scheduled to discuss the results of the exams.
After Monday’s hearing, the boy’s mother, Kwanna Luchie, said she agreed with the judge about locking up guns.
“(The boy’s father, Curry Bryson) should’ve had it more secure,” she said in the hallway outside the courtroom, tears welling up in her eyes. “(The judge’s message) is a message for everyone to learn. Put (guns) up. Kids see things, and they’re going to touch them.”
Police continue to investigate the case to determine if they will also seek negligence charges against one of the boy’s parents, according to a source close to the investigation.
Police also are investigating reports that the boy pulled a gun on a neighbor a week before the shooting, a claim an assistant Wayne County prosecutor made during a hearing last week.
Bryson insisted during a telephone interview after Monday’s hearing that he had the gun locked up.
“That’s why they didn’t charge me,” he said. “It was locked up. My son broke into my stuff.”
The gun was locked inside a bedroom closet, Bryson said.
“It was locked in my closet and the bedroom door was locked, too,” Bryson said. “I did the right thing. Everyone thinks I’m the bad one, but my son broke into the window and broke into the closet.”
Luchie said her son is upset by what happened. “He understands (right from wrong),” she said. “My son’s not a bad child. He likes basketball and cutting grass; his favorite (thing to do) is cutting grass. I try to talk to him (about the shooting), but I don’t like to keep bringing it up.”
She said her son was visiting his father the day of the shooting, and that Elijah was the son of Bryson’s girlfriend.
Troy Muhammad, a Nation of Islam minister who was called in to mentor the boy, said he already was helping his 19-year-old brother, who was shot in the stomach July 31. Police sources said the shooting was gang-related, and that the victim is not cooperating with the investigation.
“He’s had his troubles,” said Muhammad of Ceasefire Detroit, a federally funded program that’s part of the Detroit Youth Violence Prevention Initiative. “I was called in to mentor the family before (the 3-year-old was shot), and I’m working with the (11-year-old) now. The mother is working, struggling to keep it together. ... (The boy) has shown remorse, but I’m not sure if he understands the seriousness of what happened.”