On the table were two pictures that told a story of a protective big brother. In one, he smiles as his little sister sleeps on his shoulder. In the second, he stands behind his little brother, both arms across the younger boy’s chest.
That older brother, 10-year-old Hunter Morris, was shot and killed Monday by his 12-year-old friend, police said.
More than 300 people showed up to that field Tuesday for a rally and vigil and to pay their respects to a young life lost.
“We have to unite around this family and take a stand against violence,” organizer Annettea Mills said.
At 5:15 p.m. Monday, Richmond County deputies were called to the 3900 block of Deans Bridge Road, Plantation Acres, in response to gunshots, with the possibility that someone was wounded. What they found was Hunter’s body in the yard. He had been shot in the head.
Police have called it an accident. Sheriff’s Lt. Blaise Dresser said the 12-year-old, who has not been identified, got hold of his parents’ gun and waved it around the home, pulling the trigger several times before it discharged, striking Hunter in the head. The 12-year-old has been charged with involuntary manslaughter and pointing a firearm.
At the event, put on by Mills’ Save Our Students – a coalition of parents, teachers and community members committed to stopping violence involving young people – friends, family and neighbors flocked to the field to see the pictures of the young boy who had been playing video games the day before.
“They were playing Xbox games when it happened,” said Hunter’s mother, Nicole Jones, just before breaking down into tears.
She quietly fussed around the small table, rearranging the flowers and candles, moving the brown and yellow teddy bears, taking the pictures of her son from the top of the table to be propped up on the ground so Hunter’s face was more visible to the crowd.
Mills, who lost her 19-year-old nephew to a shooting in March 2011, said she knows what Jones is going through.
“All I got left is a picture,” she said. “Just like this mama. She is going through those mama emotions right now.”
Mills and Jones also had a message for the crowd.
“Lock the guns up,” Jones said. “If you need them for protection, get an alarm.”
Mills said Save Our Students has a similar message for the community – guns have to be locked up where kids cannot get their hands on them.
Jones held her younger son tight while Kenny Stevens, who says he ministers to the homeless in downtown Augusta, said a prayer for her and her family.
“What happened last night wasn’t an accident,” he said. “It was up to God.”
“Amen,” came Jones’ tearful response.