An Alabama couple has been charged with manslaughter in the July 14 accidental shooting death of Robert Reaves, a toddler who was visiting their home, the Times Daily is reporting.
The 2-year-old accidentally shot himself with a handgun he found in the house of William Braxton Whitfield, Jr., 24, and his wife Chelsie Desirae, 22. Young Robert was in the Whitfield home with family members when the tragic accident occurred.
Emergency officials said the child had found a loaded pistol while wandering around the house. The gun went off when he picked it up. He was rushed to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.
The manslaughter indictment was doled out by a grand jury last week after reaching the conclusion that the Alabama couple recklessly caused Robert Reaves’ death by leaving “a loaded firearm with a live round in the chamber, in an area easily accessible by a small child.”
Investigators said they discovered other loaded guns inside the bedroom, where the accidental shooting took place. The couple turned themselves over to authorities last week. They were released on bonds of $5,000 each.
Billy Underwood, lawyer for the couple, said William Whitfield was being charged for a crime that happened when he was not at home and his wife, Chelsie Whitfield, was “beside herself with grief.” He argued that Robert Reaves was standing next to his mother with the loaded gun. Underwood said she was talking on the phone, before he accidentally shot himself.
Underwood said the Whitfields were armed because there had been series of burglaries in the area, pointing out that vehicles at their home had been ransacked before.
“Whitfield, for the last past months, has left a firearm on the night stand in his bedroom, the most sacred of rooms in a house and one you would want to readily defend against an intruder.”
He slammed the indictment as a “classic clash of Second Amendment rights” and quick judgment because emotions were taut from the tragic death of a young boy. He said it was inevitable that the case would end up before a grand jury for Second Amendment rights to be upheld. Underwood concluded that it was risky to conceal guns and not be able to reach them in time when people needed to defend themselves.
District Attorney Bryce Graham Jr. countered him, saying that the charges were not about gun ownership or the Second Amendment, but about people showing plenty of recklessness and irresponsibility. Graham said the man of the house left a gun with a bullet in the chamber lying idly around where a young child could lay his hands on it.
“I’m a gun owner, we are privileged to live in a country where you can own a gun, but this is about being responsible with that gun. There is a tremendous responsibility to owning a gun, and this is about irresponsibility that cost a child his life, not whether they have a right to own a gun or not.”
The District Attorney called it a reckless act likening it to leaving a live electrical wire lying around and expecting a child not to pick it up from the ground.
In the Houston area, three kids unintentionally shot themselves in less than a month. The death of an 11-year-old boy last week was the 16th in the state and the 161st in America this year, in a database maintained by Everytown for Gun Safety. The organization says that most of these child shootings are preventable and is caused mainly by negligent adults who do not store their weapons safely and make sure they are unloaded.
The 11-year-old boy shot himself in the neck when he was playing with a gun in his uncle’s house July 31. He was taken off life support this week. Five days prior, Alvin, a 7-year-old boy, had unlocked his grandfather’s gun safe and accidentally shot himself in the head while playing with the gun.
He was lucky to survive the discharge as the bullet missed his brain, entering his forehead and exiting above his hairline. A week later, a 16-year-old girl accidentally shot and killed her boyfriend while trying to adjust the safety lock on his gun.
Are the Whitfields to blame for Robert Reaves’ death?
[Photo by iStock]