An argument between two children over puppies turned tragic Saturday when an 11-year-old boy killed his 8-year-old neighbour with a shotgun, according to authorities in Jefferson County, Tenn.
The 11-year-old has been charged with first-degree murder in the girl's death, Jefferson County Sheriff Bud McCoig told The Washington Post. Authorities aren't releasing the names of either child, but Latasha Dyer told ABC affiliate WATE that her daughter, McKayla, was killed.
"She was a precious little girl," Dyer said through tears in an on-air interview with WATE. "She was a mommy's girl. No matter how bad of a mood you were in, she could always make you smile."
Each of the children had a puppy, the sheriff said. The 11-year-old "wanted to see the 8-year-old's, and she said no, and then he went and retrieved a gun," McCoig said.
The boy fired the 12-gauge shotgun from inside of his house, striking the girl as she stood in her yard, according to the sheriff. The gun, which was stored in a closet without locks, belonged to the boy's father, McCoig said.
We remember her smile and her beautiful face
When first responders and police arrived on the scene Saturday night, they found the girl "lying on the ground with a gunshot to the chest," McCoig said. She was taken to an area hospital, where she died from her injuries.
On Monday, a judge ordered the boy to be held in a juvenile facility pending his next court hearing, on Oct. 28; the case could later be transferred to adult court, McCoig said.
Saturday's killing, which came just two days after a mass school shooting in rural Oregon, has rocked the small community of White Pine, Tenn. Both children attended White Pine School, which teaches students from kindergarten through eighth grade, principal Bill Walker said.
"We remember her smile and her beautiful face," Walker told reporters Monday. "Our normal has changed."
I had to go to the principal about him, and then he quit for awhile. And then all of a sudden yesterday, he shot her
Dyer told Knoxville's WATE TV that she had previously approached the school principal about the 11-year-old bullying her daughter.
"When we first moved White Pine, the little boy was bullying McKayla. He was making fun of her, calling her names, just being mean to her," Dyer said Sunday. "I had to go to the principal about him, and then he quit for awhile. And then all of a sudden yesterday, he shot her."
Walker declined to confirm to reporters on Monday that Dyer talked to him about bullying, citing the ongoing investigation.
Counselors were at the school to support students and staff in the aftermath of the shooting.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with those involved from both families," Walker said, according to WATE. "It's not just the school that's hurting; it's the whole community."
McCoig said the killing has taken a toll on his investigators. "We only get through it by the grace of God," he said.
Elahe Izadi, Washington Post
Elahe Izadi, Washington Post
Oct 07, 2015