‘We know he went to heaven’: Grandma remembers 4-year-old shot to death in DeKalb

Miyell Hernandez, 4, often used FaceTime to talk to his grandmother.

Credit: Family photo

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Miyell Hernandez, 4, often used FaceTime to talk to his grandmother.

Credit: Family photo

Miyell Hernandez loved his toys so much that he lined them up nearby when he took a bath or went to sleep, his grandmother said. April Griffin loved spoiling her first grandson, so she bought the 4-year-old those toys.

Griffin told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution the two were so close that even when she had to travel for work, the two often talked by phone or used FaceTime.

“We talked all the time,” she said through tears. “I never felt that kind of love. I never knew nobody could love me like that.”

Now Griffin isn’t sure how she and her family will go on without the sweet little boy, who had been looking forward to a summer trip to Walt Disney World.

While his mother went into a DeKalb County grocery store Sunday afternoon, Miyell waited in the car with two young relatives, according to police. But somehow, Miyell got his hands on a gun inside the car and investigators believe he accidentally shot himself around 5 p.m., police said Monday afternoon.

A 13-year-old relative ran inside the Publix on Panola Road for help, a DeKalb police spokeswoman said. Miyell was taken to a hospital but died from his injuries. No one else was injured in the incident, which remains under investigation. No charges have been filed.

“Our hearts and thoughts go out to the Hernandez family,” DeKalb police Chief Mirtha Ramos said in an emailed statement. “We’re imploring gun owners to always keep their guns safe and secure.”

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Griffin said Monday that her daughter, Miyell’s mother, did not own a gun and the family is unsure how the boy would have found the weapon. The boy’s mother can’t get the image of her injured son out of her head.

The grieving family hasn’t started making funeral plans. In addition to his grandmother and parents, Miyell is survived by an infant sister.

“He’s innocent and he’s so pure,” Griffin said. “Even though he’s not here, we know he went to heaven. We know it.”

Sunday’s shooting was the second in five days that left a metro Atlanta child dead, and the sixth this year that killed a child under the age of 18.

Late Wednesday, 9-year-old Kemoni Mack was shot to death at The Station at Richmond Hill apartment complex in the 1700 block of Richmond Circle in southeast Atlanta, according to police. On Sunday, Atlanta police announced that a suspect, believed to be 16 years old, had been charged in the boy’s death.

The following day, Atlanta police Chief Rodney Bryant pleaded with gun owners to be responsible and secure firearms properly.

“Take the necessary precautions and help us,” he said.

On Jan. 15, a 1-year-old girl died after being shot by another child in her home, police previously said. The baby’s mother was later charged in the case. The same day, Kelvice Roberson Jr., 15, was shot and killed at the Dunbar Neighborhood Center along Windsor Street, police said.

Six-month-old Grayson Fleming-Gray died Jan. 24 after being shot while riding in a vehicle near a store on Anderson Avenue. Two people — Dequasie Johnathan Little and Sharice Ingram, both 22 — have been charged in the killing.

And on Jan. 26, Havord Head, 17, was fatally shot at The Commons apartments on Middleton Road. Investigators said they believe the shooting stemmed from a robbery involving narcotics.

Earlier in January, a child was shot outside a Chipotle restaurant in Snellville when two siblings waited for their mother, according to police. The 7-year-old boy survived the shooting.

The DeKalb police department is planning to host a safety fair March 19, where free gun locks and other safety tips will be available.