Malachi Hemphill was showing off a gun to friends on an Instagram Live video when it accidentally went off, killing the 13-year-old before an audience of up to 40 people.
The teenager’s death has made national headlines in the days since the terrible accident, with some using it as a larger discussion about the dangers of unmonitored social media use among teenagers.
The Forest Park, Georgia, boy had reportedly gotten the gun from a friend of a friend, WXIA 11 reported. His mother said that Malachi had just taken out the garbage and returned to his room, and she had no idea anything was wrong. A few minutes later there was a “big boom” from the boy’s room, and Shaniqua Stephens said the family ran to found Malachi on the ground bleeding from his head.
“We kicked in the door. We found him just laying there in a pool of blood,” she told WXIA 11. “My daughter screamed and said, ‘Mom turn his phone off!’ As I proceeded to look at his phone he was on Instagram Live.”
Some of the friends watching Malachi Hemphill show off the gun had reportedly urged him to put it down, and viewers said he was doing that when the gun went off.
US teen shoots himself dead during Instagram live stream https://t.co/bMq5Grv3nl
— Evening Standard (@standardnews) April 13, 2017
Because there was a large audience for his Instagram Live video, many flocked to Hemphill’s home after watching the accident to see if the boy was OK.
“I guess these were the kids that were watching on live that live in the area,” his mother said. ‘I guess when it happened they just ran over here.”
Malachi Hemphill’s death on the Instagram Live video follows a series of other tragedies broadcast live online. A number of other teens and adolescents have used live-streaming video to broadcast their final moments, including 12-year-old Katelyn Nichole Davis, who took her life in Georgia in late December.
Davis broadcast a video where she apologized to those watching and then hung a rope from a tree. The video captured her hanging, and the girl’s body was later found outside her home with what the Northwest Georgia News reported to be “self-inflicted wounds.”
Katelyn Nichole Davis Suicide: 12-Year-Old Allegedly Hanged Herself, Live-Streamed Suicide On Facebook Live https://t.co/ZJAs0qpclv
— tony palmer (@tonypalmer300) January 25, 2017
Following her death, a number of others used live video to broadcast their suicide, including 14-year-old Nakia Venant, who hanged herself in January and broadcast it on Facebook Live.
The spate of broadcast suicides caused alarm for mental health experts, who noted that such high-profile suicides, especially when the person was so young, had a tendency to lead copycat suicides.
“It just seems so frightening, but a lot of behaviors are modeled,” Dr. Madelyn Gould of the New York State Psychiatric Institute told the Daily Beast. (If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline and talk with someone either online or by phone. Information on suicide hotlines outside the United States can be found here.)
The death of Malachi Hemphill did not appear to be a suicide, but his family members are still hoping that the tragedy can lead to some kind of positive change. As Hemphill’s mother later said, she hoped others could learn a lesson from her son’s use of social media.
“(The) Detective asked me yesterday, ‘What was Malachi’s Instagram name?’ I couldn’t tell him what Malachi’s Instagram name was because he would make up so many different pages,” Stephens told WXIA 11. “Monitor their phones, just monitor your children. More now than anything.”
The video of Malachi Hemphill’s death has still circulated online, and some news outlets have linked to an edited version that shows the boy in his final moments before the gun accidentally went off.
[Featured Image by Morris MacMatzen/Getty Images]