In three separate incidents within a week, ending Saturday, three Metro Detroit youths under the ages of 18 were shot, and one killed, with guns they had easy access to.
The incidents took place in Pontiac and on Detroit’s east and west sides.
The latest took place at 9:50 a.m. Saturday on the 5500 block of the John C. Lodge Service Drive, when a 9-year-old boy found a gun in his mother’s purse and shot himself in the hand, Detroit police said.
The boy’s mother was on the first floor of the home with two other children when the boy, who was upstairs, found and fired the gun, police said. Detroit Police Department’s child abuse unit is investigating the case, said Officer Jennifer Moreno, a police spokeswoman. A charging recommendation is expected to be submitted to the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office on Monday.
Before that, late on March 18, on the 100 block of Wall Street in Pontiac, the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office responded to a 911 call about a shooting. Police found a 14-year-old Orion Township boy shot in the head in a second-story bedroom. He had been shot with a .32 caliber handgun, which police found in the backyard of a neighboring home.
The Oakland County Sheriff’s Office, which handles policing duties in the northern suburb, have said they believe a 14-year-old boy, the victim’s best friend, pulled the trigger. He was taken to Oakland County Children’s Village as investigators worked to determine if he was the shooter.
The victim was taken to Children’s Hospital. On Sunday, the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office said Solomon Bonner died of gunshot wounds to the head.
The Oakland County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to questions about whether charges will be filed in the shooting.
Two nights after the Pontiac shooting, on March 20 in Detroit, another 14-year-old was hit with shotgun fire about 7:30 p.m. on the 13700 block of Pfent, north of East Seven Mile, east of Schoenherr.
Police believe the victim and his 10-year-old brother were playing with the gun in a bedroom when the younger brother pulled the trigger by accident.
The gun was not locked up, Detroit police Capt. Eric Decker said at the time.
Detroit Police Department arrested the boys’ father that same night, but charges have not been filed, said Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office spokeswoman Maria Miller.
Detroit Police Commissioner Willie Burton has taken an interest in gun safety and children after 5-year-old Mariah Davis found a gun last May under a pillow and fatally shot herself.
Burton resolved then that “no child should have access to a gun.”
In the months since, he’s distributed some 300 gun safety locks to Detroit gun owners and has taken on gun safety as a pet issue on the police commission.
“(The) Detroit Police Department cannot police stupidity,” Burton said. “It’s one thing to have a gun ‘put away’ and another thing to have it locked up.”
But gun locks are just one part of Burton’s strategy. Another is starting a dialogue with gun-owners about what to teach children to do when they find a gun, or their friend brings over a gun.
Burton said he’s handed out about 50 pledge cards for parents to give their children in which they sign a pledge not to touch a gun they find, but instead alert an adult or call the authorities.
Just as important as the signed pledge, he said, is that “... families are having this conversation about gun safety.”
“We’ve got to get back to the basics of sitting down and talking with our children,” he said.
Discussions about gun safety are being had in more than Detroit homes. Neighborhood police officers, in their runs around the city, often discuss gun safety issues with children, including with toddlers who are in daycare.
“What do you do if you’re at the playground and you see a gun?” Neighborhood Police Officer Baron Coleman asked a group of 2- to 4-year-olds last year at a center off Grand River. “Do you touch it?” he asked.
“No!” the kids said.
“If your friend brings over a gun, do you play with it?” Coleman asked.
“No!” the kids said.
“What do you do?”
“Call 911!” the kids responded in unison
Burton asks gun owners who live with children to consider the consequences if free gun locks and conversations with youngsters in their families fail to sway them.
“I’d rather you get a gun lock, provided for free, than for you to be to be judged by Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy,” Burton said.
Separately, four teens were shot and one died after an argument late Saturday on Detroit’s west side. The quadruple shooting about 11:30 p.m. on the 8400 block of Grand River happened outside near the popular Steve’s Soul Food. Police said the teens had been at a club upstairs of the building that houses the restaurant.
Free gun locks are available to Detroit gun owners by calling Commissioner Willie Burton at (313) 596-1804.