BELLEVILLE, IL (KTVI) – A single shot fired from a handgun without a safety lock took the life of an eleven year old boy Tuesday night in Belleville.
A six year old boy described by police as a family member was identified as the shooter. Leonard J. Smith Jr., age 11 of East St. Louis, was struck in the head at 11pm. It happened in an upstairs bedroom in a home in the first block of North 98th St. in Belleville. Smith was visiting the home. Police say other children witnessed the shooting incident.
Adults attending a family gathering were on a lower level of the home. Police say the family is cooperating. Belleville Police Detective Mark Heffernan said the loaded handgun did not have a safety lock on it.
“We feel for the family in this circumstance and certainly our thoughts and prayers go out to them,” Detective Heffernan said. There’s a responsibility that comes with owning a gun he went on to say. “We have to make sure the guns are secured and not accessible to children of this age.”
Police spent much of Wednesday investigating the circumstances behind the shooting. “At this point in time we won’t be applying for charges on the six year old. We believe that this is just a tragic circumstance that these kids located this firearm and it had a deadly result,” Detective Heffernan explained.
The results of the investigation will be turned over to the St. Clair County State’s Attorney for further review and possible charges.
Authorities said the owner of the home where the shooting occurred told police he had been keeping the hand gun for a relative.
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