Forest Park, Georgia – Malachi Hemphill, a 13-year-old middle school student was showing off a gun to his friends live on Instagram when he accidentally shot himself in the head and died on Monday, his family said.
“I heard a big boom. I couldn’t tell if it was a gunshot or what. I just knew that it was something that was wrong,” the boy’s mother Shaniqua Stephens told NBC 11.
Several of his friends were watching when the accident happened. Stephens said they rushed to their house afterwards.
“There was about 40 to 50 kids outside. I guess these were the kids that were watching on live in the area. I guess when it happened they just ran over here,” she said.
She’s been told that someone asked why Malachi did not have a clip in the gun, and told him to put a clip in the gun.
“As he put the clip in the gun, that is when the gun went off,” Stephens said according to Khaleej Times
The boy’s father, Ernest Stephens, said it was Malachi’s mother who kicked in his locked bedroom door and found their son on the pool of blood.
“When the accident happened inside that room, he was fighting from the time it happened, before the ambulance got here, he was still fighting,” says his father.
Malachi later died at Grady Memorial Hospital due to the gunshot wound on the head by a 9mm semi-automatic pistol.
“That is my godson, Malachi. He was 13 years old and he was in his bedroom playing with a gun on Instagram live,” says Shantirea Bankston. “He was full of life, he was a good kid, very active, loved dancing.”
“He did not kill himself. He loved life, he was just playing with a gun and the gun went off,” she added.
She said it was a span of about 20 minutes when the boy took out the trash, went on Instagram live, then accidentally shot himself.
Officials in Forest Park said the incident is still being investigated. Detectives said they are consulting with the Clayton County D.A.’s office, and depending on where their investigation leads; criminal charges are a possibility.
According to CBS 46, family members said the boy traded his iPhone for the gun about four days before the incident. They believe his death didn’t have to happen if someone had spoken up.
Family, friends, and neighbors lit candles and gathered together in his memory.
Meanwhile, as the incident became news to the community and eventually to the whole nation, support kept pouring in, until an unexpected guest surprised them. Former NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal called the family before visiting their home on Thursday night, Shantirea told NBC 11.
Shaq expressed his condolences and offered to pay for Malachi’s funeral expenses.
“We just broke down and started crying because Malachi didn’t have any insurance. We wasn’t prepared to bury him this young. We didn’t have insurance for him. So to have that from Shaquille O’Neal it was a blessing and very touching, and we appreciate everything he do for the community,” says Shantirea Bankston.
The basketball superstar has been quietly doing charity for Metro Atlanta families for years; always with a humble action.
“No mother should have to go through this. I can only imagine the pain that she and all of Malachi’s family must be feeling. I just wanted to do what I could to help them at such a terrible time,” Shaq said in a statement sent to NBC 11.
The family wants to use this tragedy as a constant reminder for all parents to be more involved with their children.
They do not want Malachi’s death to be in vain. His mom wants teens to know, that “if you see something, say something.” She said “someone probably knew he had his gun 2 or 3 days before this has happened, if they would have said something, he would be still here.”