Mother of 4-year-old shot in car on I-85 now faces 2nd-degree murder charge

Credit: Henri Hollis

Credit: Henri Hollis

The mother of a 4-year-old who died Sunday in what police called an accidental shooting now faces a second-degree murder charge after she allegedly failed to secure a firearm in her car, DeKalb County court officials confirmed Tuesday.

Kaelin Lewis, 26, was driving on I-85 around 7:30 p.m. when her daughter, Kendal Lewis, found a gun and it discharged, killing the toddler, police have said. An arrest warrant obtained by Channel 2 Action News stated the gun was stored under the driver’s seat.

Kaelin Lewis was initially charged only with second-degree cruelty to children. But according to Georgia law, a second-degree murder charge can be added if the child dies and if prosecutors can prove criminal negligence. That is, whether an adult was aware or should have been aware of a gun being in the area and did nothing to keep it out of the reach of children.

It’s one of the few legal avenues Georgia prosecutors can use to impose consequences for parents or caregivers who do not securely store their weapons, as the state does not have a law requiring the safe storage of firearms.

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According to a GoFundMe account set up to help with funeral costs, the family called it a “tragic accident” and that Kendal Lewis was set to start pre-K on Monday.

“She was the most boisterous and lively four-year-old who was so excited to start pre-k the next day,” the fundraising page read.

At least 40 children under the age of 18 have been shot in metro Atlanta this year, according to data maintained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. It is unclear how many were unintentionally shot by themselves or another child, as police have not released many details in most cases and other incidents may have not been reported to the public at all by police.

But based on the limited information that has been made public, at least 12 of the 40 were accidentally shot while they or another child were handling firearms. Of those, seven — all under 9 years old — died.

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