She had picked up a friend, who shot her from the backseat as she drove, Kirkland’s family said. Kirkland died from her injuries after being taken to Wellstar Cobb Hospital, the same hospital where she was born, her mother said.
Christopher Morris, 17, a former classmate of Kirkland’s, was later arrested and charged with involuntary manslaughter and possession of a gun by a person under 18, Cobb jail records show. Morris was released Friday afternoon after posting $25,000 bond.
Bates believes Morris may have been showing off the gun when he fired it, striking her daughter.
“I think he got his hands on something he had no knowledge of,” she said. “It ended up taking my baby’s life, out of ignorance. It’s so senseless.”
The youngest of eight siblings and half-siblings, Kirkland was with a half-sister when she was killed. Bates thinks the two girls picked up Morris and planned to hang out.
Kirkland had planned to spend her third straight summer working as a call center representative for a pool company, her mother said. Kirkland had been tapped to train others.
And she wanted to work to help fund her love of shopping, her family said. Kirkland had planned to study nursing at Chamberlain University in Sandy Springs. One of her biggest role models was an older cousin, Ryan Hawkins, her mother said.
Thursday night, hundreds of friends and former classmates gathered for a candlelight vigil.
“I have never, ever in my life seen something so powerful,” Bates said.
Bates hopes her daughter’s death is a stark reminder of the danger of guns when they are in the wrong hands. She said she doesn’t want other families to face the pain of losing a child.
“This has got to stop,” she said.
A spokesperson for the Cobb school system said grief counselors are available at South Cobb.
The funeral service for Kirkland is planned for 1 p.m. Wednesday at Greener Pastures Funeral Home in Powder Springs. A GoFundMe page has been created to assist the family with costs.
Investigators believe the shooting, which remains under investigation, was accidental. Anyone with information on the incident is asked to contact the Cobb police department’s Crimes Against Persons Unit at 770-499-3945.