Police: 11-year-old accidentally shot, killed by 6-year-old in Belleville

News-DemocratJuly 17, 2013 

— An 11-year-old boy who was visiting a Belleville home was accidentally shot to death Tuesday night by a 6-year-old friend.

Leonard J. Smith Jr., of the 700 block of North 68th St. in East St. Louis, died after he was unintentionally shot in the head by a young family friend.

The shooting happened about 11 p.m. in an upstairs bedroom during a barbecue at a home in the first block of North 98th Street in Belleville. Three children, including the victim and the 6-year-old boy, were alone upstairs while adults were gathered on the main floor of the home during the get-together, according to Belleville Det. Mark Heffernan.

The handgun was not owned by the residents of the home.

"Indications are that the firearm was at the residence temporarily being kept there at the request of an acquaintance of the resident," Heffernan said.

Leonard and his family were visiting family friends in Belleville when the tragic accident happened, Heffernan said.

Leonard died before he reached Memorial Hospital in Belleville

St. Clair County State's Attorney Brendan Kelly is reviewing the reports and findings of the investigation to determine what, if any, charges are applicable.

"This is obviously a very tragic situation, and our thoughts and prayers go out to the victim's family," Heffernan said. "Those who own firearms need to ensure their firearms are secured so we don't have another tragic situation like the one we've been investigating."

Detectives interviewed family members and others who were inside the residence at the time of the shooting, according to Belleville Police Capt. Don Sax. He said the family has cooperated fully with the police investigation.

Belleville police last investigated an accidental fatal shooting by a juvenile in 2011 when 5-year-old Kaden Mallory was shot to death by his 10-year-old brother in the family's home off North 28th Street.

The boys had been playing with a shotgun inside the family's home at 8 Glen Grove off North 28th Street when Kaden suffered the fatal wound, police said. Their parents were not home at the time of the incident. An adult baby-sitter was watching the children but was in a different part of the home at the time Kaden was shot, police said.

No charges were filed in this case.

Last year, 140 children and teenagers in Illinois were killed by a firearm, according to data from the Children's Defense Fund in Washington, D.C. Nationally, 2,694 children and teens were killed by firearms last. On average, 2,826 children under the age of 19 die from gunshot wounds annually in the U.S., according to statistics compiled by the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence.

Thirty-five percent of U.S. households have a gun, and half of those households do not lock up their guns. Of those households that own firearms, 40 percent have children under the age of 18. Death from gunshot wounds is the second-leading cause of death, after motor vehicle crashes, for young people ages 1 to 19 in the U.S., according to statistics compiled by the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence.

Contact reporter Scott Wuerz at swuerz@bnd.com or call 618-239-2626.

Contact reporter Jennifer A. Schaaf at jschaaf@bnd.com or 618-239-2667.