Thursday, September 14, 2000

Playing with gun leaves boy dead at 13

Cousins found grandfather's old shotgun

By Kristina Goetz and Tom O'Neill
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Two boys and a game with a gun left a 13-year-old dead Tuesday and a neighborhood wondering why.

        Malcolm L. Brown and his 9-year-old cousin found their grandfather's old shotgun and were playing with it in an upstairs bedroom in Kennedy Heights about 8 p.m. Tuesday.

[photo] Mary Gentry said her neighbor pounded on her door Tuesday night, yelling that Malcolm had been shot.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
| ZOOM |
        The gun went off and Malcolm was killed, Cincinnati police said.

        It appears to have been an accident, although investigators have not released the details of the Tyne Avenue shooting.

        Homicide detectives Wednesday ruled out suicide, but continue to investigate.

        The shooting death was the third such incident over the past five years in which a Greater Cincinnati child died while playing with a gun. However, national statistics show a decline in firearms-related deaths among children in the same time period.

        Malcolm, a sixth-grader at Pleasant Ridge Elementary School, also is known as Malcolm Allen in school and Hamilton County records. The discrepancy in names could not be explained by officials Wednesday.

        Mary Gentry, a neighbor who has lived in Kennedy Heights for more than 20 years, said Malcolm's aunt ran to her house Tuesday night and started banging on the door.

        “She was screaming, "Ganna, Ganna, let me in!” said Ms. Gentry, who is known as Ganna to family and neighbors. “She said, "Can I use your phone? Malcolm's been shot.'”

  Law enforcement officials say it's too early to tell whether “parental responsibility” laws will be an issue in the fatal shooting of a 13-year-old boy Tuesday.
  But if parental responsibility does become an issue, prosecutors won't have many options. Few laws address the legal responsibility of parents or guardians.
  Ohio law allows a charge of child endangering or contributing to the delinquency of a minor if parents are found to be negligent. Both are misdemeanors.
  A Cincinnati city ordinance allows a minor misdemeanor charge of “failure to supervise.” The charge carries a possible fine but no jail time.
        Although neighborhood children and schoolmates said Malcolm sometimes got in trouble in school, Ms. Gentry said he seemed well-behaved while he lived with his grandparents next-door.

        “He was mannerly to me,” she said. “He respected me.”

        Mindy Good, spokeswoman for the county Department of Human Services, said the boy had been the subject of a children's services case, but that it was closed in 1998.

        The department's files — along with Cincinnati Public Schools' — list Malcolm's last name as Allen, the same as his grandparents', with a notation “A.K.A. Brown.”

        “The mother needed some help in handling the children,” Ms. Good said. “We stepped in and gave her that help.”

        Malcolm's parents' and grandparents' names could not be confirmed Wednesday.

        Ms. Good could not be specific about the family's problems, for confidentiality reasons, but she said when the case was closed, social service workers reported that the family was doing fine.

        The national rate of children ages 5-14 killed by firearms has decreased each year since 1995, when it peaked at two deaths per 100,000 kids.

        “However, it's important to note that the rates are still very high, particularly in the U.S. when compared to other countries,” said Dr. Rodney Hammond, director in the violence-prevention division of the National Center for Injury-Prevention and Control in Atlanta.

        In 1996, two child gun-related deaths shocked the Tristate. Fourteen-year-old Jeffrey Schulte of Delhi was killed during a game of Russian roulette in July. In November, 6-year-old Michael Martin of Hamilton was shot to death by his 8-year-old brother, Ricky.

        Wednesday afternoon on Tyne Street, a few neighbors sat on their porches and talked about what had transpired the night before.

        One man heard the single shot. Another walked out when he heard the commotion. Still another said incidents like these beg for prayer to be brought back in schools.

        Dana Faison, 9, who was home sick from school, said Malcolm rode her bus to Pleasant Ridge Elementary. She saw a police officer take the shotgun Tuesday night and put it in the trunk of a police cruiser.

        “He was kinda skinny and tall,” Dana said of Malcolm. “He used to come outside and ride his bike a lot.”

        Several blocks away, the shooting was the talk of the schoolyard at Pleasant Ridge Elementary. School officials would not comment, but students had plenty to say.

        They brought home letters for their parents that explained the incident and offered grief counseling.

        Lenquan Conley, 11, stood waiting for his bus near the school gate and talked with friends. He said Malcolm liked to play football and basketball and that he wanted someday to become a professional athlete. He wanted to have kids, too, he said.

        “I've known him for 3 1/2 years,” Lenquan said. “We just saw him yesterday. He was doing art in art class.

        “That was the last (school) work he did.”

- Playing with gun leaves boy dead at 13
Earlier case has striking similarity

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