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Tragedy as two-year-old boy shoots himself dead with gun left in car

The SUV where a two-year-old child in Michigan accidentally shot and killed himself using a firearm prosecutors claim belonged to Avis Damone Coward (UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT/ WESTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN)
The SUV where a two-year-old child in Michigan accidentally shot and killed himself using a firearm prosecutors claim belonged to Avis Damone Coward (UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT/ WESTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN)

A man in Michigan has been charged with felony possession of a firearm after his gun accidentally discharged and killed a two-year-old boy in October.

US Attorney for the Western District of Michigan Mark Totten announced the felony firearms possession charges against Avis Damone Coward on Wednesday, according to CBS News.

Mr Coward allegedly exited his car while at a Lansing gas station, leaving the two-year-old and his mother in his car. Video footage captured by the gas station shows that approximately a minute later a bullet hole appeared in the car's window.

Prosecutors who reviewed the video said the mother then left the car cradling the toddler, who was bleeding from a gunshot wound. The child eventually died from his injuries.

When the woman left the car, Mr Coward's gun fell to the ground. When he returned from the gas station he allegedly picked it up and put it back in the car.

Mr Coward allegedly fled the scene, but was later arrested in connection to the case, according to People.

Police later found Mr Coward’s car on Halloween night in a field in Lansing. The car had reportedly been badly damaged by fire, according to a court filing reviewed by People.

Mugshot of Avis Damone Coward, November 2023 (Ingham County Sheriff’s Office)
Mugshot of Avis Damone Coward, November 2023 (Ingham County Sheriff’s Office)
A gun lies at the feet of Avis Damone Coward moments after it accidentally fired and fatally struck a 2-year-old boy  inside the car (U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, WESTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN)
A gun lies at the feet of Avis Damone Coward moments after it accidentally fired and fatally struck a 2-year-old boy inside the car (U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, WESTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN)

It’s not immediately clear if Mr Coward has employed or been assigned an attorney.

"Death of child by gunfire is a story that should never be written," Mr Totten said in a statement. "Yet beginning in 2022, and for the first time ever, gun violence has become the number one cause of death for kids in America. As this swelling epidemic reaches our most innocent, my office will use every resource available to secure full accountability and prevent future harm."

Ingham County Prosecutor John Dewane blamed the widespread availability of firearms for the child's death.

"No child should have access to a handgun, period," Mr Dewane said. "However, due to the widespread proliferation of firearms, guns are all too readily available for children to encounter."

Just days before the child was shot, Paul Elam, the chief strategy office for the Michigan Public Health Institute, published an op-ed in the Lansing State Journal saying "the cost of gun violence in Lansing is too high to ignore" and argued for taxpayer money to be used to implement measures that would prevent future gun violence.