Six-year-old Missouri girl dies after brother accidentally shot her in the head while parents were away at Christmas party
A young Missouri girl tragically died last Friday, December 14, after she was accidentally shot in the head by her 12-year-old brother while her parents were at a Christmas party. Six-year-old Maliyah Palmer was rushed to the hospital for treatment but succumbed to her injuries.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Maliyah and her brother were being watched by their 16-year-old sister at their home in the first block of Holly Lane, Florissant, when the boy found a 9mm handgun in a dresser drawer in the parents' bedroom.
His sister was reportedly near him at the time when he accidentally pulled the trigger, shooting the little girl in the back of the head. Officers responded to the residence on reports of a shooting at around 11 pm, and the girl later died after being transported to the hospital.
Speaking about the incident, Police Chief Timothy Lowery said, "All of the officers who responded to the scene are mothers and fathers, so you can only imagine how personal it is to see a child shot in the back of the head. We will have counselors here for a debriefing hopefully this week to make sure the mental state of our officers is OK."
In a press release written out in the immediate aftermath, Florissant police officer Steve Michael said the child "accidentally discharged a round" and called the shooting a "tragic accident," adding that "no charges will be filed at this time."
But the department soon retracted this previous statement, with Lowery stating that it was a mistake to send out a press release claiming no charges would be filed.
"You couldn’t have written a more tragic script, the whole thing is just so tragic and terrible, but we have to put our personal feelings aside and do the law enforcement side of this," he said.
He confirmed that investigators will follow standard procedure and would be turning over their finding to prosecutors, who will then decide if charges will be filed against the parents. Ed Magee, a spokesman for the St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch, said that investigators had not yet turned over their findings to their office and that someone from the prosecutor's office was in touch with Florissant Police and was working with them in the case.
If charges are brought against Maliyah's parents, it would not be unprecedented. The Post-Dispatch reported that parents had been charged in similar cases in the state where a child had shot someone after finding a gun that had not been stored securely.
The charges brought against the gun owner in such cases usually included endangering the welfare of a child, a first-degree felony that is punishable by up to seven years in prison as well as a $5,000 fine.
The six-year-old was a first-grader at Green Trails Elementary School in Chesterfield, a part of the Parkway School District. Spokeswoman Cathy Kelly said additional counselors had been brought to the school to help classmates cope with the incident.