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5-year-old who died from shooting in Smyrna found gun in his father's backpack

Posted at 9:12 PM, Aug 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-16 19:29:49-04

SMYRNA, Tenn. (WTVF)  — Smyrna Police Department officials confirmed that Monday night a 5-year-old boy died after a shooting at Lee Victory Park, and that he found the firearm within a backpack belonging to his parent.

Police said the incident happened around 7:20 p.m. in the basketball court area. The boy's family identified him as LaVonte'e Williams. Police officials said Tuesday afternoon that the child found the firearm in his father's backpack and that the gun belonged to his father.

News of the boy's death crushed those who knew him.

"We are going to have a very big void, but what carries us through this particular point is the love and the joy that radiated from his spirit," said Belita McMurry-Fite, senior pastor at Heaven's View Baptist Church. "That's what's going to help us through: to see his big smile and the wonderful persona that he always had."

Right now, the family is asking for space and privacy, however his mother posted online to let the community know that the boy had just been baptized on Sunday and that is comforting them.

LaVontee Williams.PNG
LaVonte'e Williams

Smyrna officials said the town follows the state's gun in parks law, which typically prohibits firearms in parks and recreational areas. However, there are many exclusions to that law of who can carry firearms within a park. If an individual doesn't fall within the exclusions, carrying a firearm at a park is a misdemeanor crime.

"Based on multiple witness statements and evidence at the scene, at this time it appears to be a tragic accident. However, the investigation is still ongoing. The gun believed to be involved was recovered at the scene. Until all family members have been notified no names will be released," said Jim Garbee, spokesperson for the Town of Smyrna.

Garbee continued expressing their deepest condolences for the family. Mayor Mary Esther also issued a comment on the incident.

“The death of a child is inconceivable and our hearts are shattered by this tragedy. The Smyrna community extends prayers of comfort and healing for all involved," Mayor Mary Esther Reed said.

In 2019 and 2020 — the last two years Tennessee published the number of accidental deaths of children — more than 70 kids died each year.

LaVonte'e was pronounced dead at Stonecrest Medical Center. The family has created a GoFundMe page to raise money for his funeral costs.