Mother charged after 4-year-old accidentally shoots herself in car on I-85

Woman faces 2nd-degree cruelty to children charge in DeKalb

A woman has been charged in her 4-year-old daughter’s death after the child was found shot inside a car on I-85 in DeKalb County on Sunday evening in what police said was an apparent accident.

Officers were called to I-85 northbound at North Druid Hills Road just after 7:30 p.m. when someone was reported shot, DeKalb police spokesman Lt. Shane Smith said.

When officers arrived, they found the girl dead in the back seat having suffered an apparent gunshot wound, Smith said. Police identified the victim as Kendal Lewis.

Smith said homicide detectives determined that while Kaelin Lewis, 26, was driving, her daughter found the firearm and the weapon discharged, striking the girl. According to the arrest warrant obtained by Channel 2 Action News, the gun was stored under the driver’s seat.

According to Georgia law, parents or caretakers can be charged with second-degree cruelty to children if investigators can prove criminal negligence — 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.

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In this case, the mother was charged with cruelty to children in the second degree and booked into the DeKalb jail.

Across the metro Atlanta area, at least 40 children under the age of 18 have been shot this year, with 19 of them dying. It is unclear how many were unintentionally shot by themselves or another child, as police have not released many details in several of the incidents.

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.

— Please return to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for updates.

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