Stolen AR-15 leads to Georgia boy’s death, 10 years in prison

Georgia tragically a leader in unintended shootings involving children
Mason Piercy died Feb. 9, 2022. He was 4.

Credit: Family photo

Credit: Family photo

Mason Piercy died Feb. 9, 2022. He was 4.

Prosecutors said James Lee Evans Jr. knew how an AR-15 ended up in an apartment he shared with a woman and her two small children. And he also knew how a 4-year-old was shot and killed by the rifle.

But Evans initially told investigators a different story. He claimed little Mason Piercy had been the victim of a gang-related, drive-by shooting.

After a massive search to find the shooter, Evans confessed he knew where the weapon was: he had hidden it after the boy was shot.

Earlier this month, a Spalding County judge sentenced Evans to serve 10 years in prison, according to District Attorney Marie Broder with the Griffin Judicial Circuit.

Mason was one of dozens of children killed or injured in unintentional shootings every year, according to Everytown for Gun Safety, an organization dedicated to preventing gun violence. From 2015 through 2023, 194 unintentional shootings involving children happened in Georgia, ranking the state 10th in the nation.

“Unintentional shootings by children are not accidents, because they’re entirely preventable through secure gun storage,” Dr. Sofia Chaudhary, an Atlanta pediatrician, said in a statement. “When a gun is left accessible to a child, it can be a matter of life and death. Keeping our kids safe means stopping gun violence before it happens in the first place.”

Earlier this month, a 3-year-old was shot to death and another child was injured when bullets flew into their Athens home while they watched television, according to police. Three teenagers are accused in the shooting.

In the Spalding case, Evans had stolen the rifle that was at the end of the bed, near where Mason and his 2-year-old brother played, according to prosecutors. As Evans called the boy to get on the bed, Mason was shot in the hand and abdomen Feb. 3, 2022. He died from his injuries days later.

Moments later, Evans left the Griffin apartment with the rifle and hid it under a mattress and box spring left on a path behind the complex, according to investigators. It was still loaded.

Evans, identified by prosecutors as a known gang member, led authorities on a hunt for a shooter before he confessed. When investigators found the gun, they determined it had been stolen in September 2021.

“Ballistics testing confirmed that not only was it the weapon that killed Mason, but it had been used in multiple gang-related, drive-by shootings in the Griffin area in the months prior to Mason’s death,” Broder’s office said in a statement.

Both Evans and Mason’s mother, Jamacia Lyons, were initially charged with second-degree homicide, two counts of cruelty to children in the second degree, reckless conduct and lying to police. Evans was also charged with gang-related offenses and possession of the gun.

Before trial, Lyons agreed to testify against Evans and pleaded guilty to the reduced charge of involuntary manslaughter, Broder said. Lyons was sentenced to 10 years on probation under the First Offender Act.

The jury found Evans guilty, and Judge Scott Ballard sentenced him to 10 years to serve in prison. He was moved to the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification State Prison on March 14, according to the state department of corrections.

“The hardest part of this case was the unknown. Who would Mason have been? What would he have done? We’ll never know, because he never had the chance to show us,” Broder said.


Be SMART, a program of Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, helps parents and other adults normalize conversations about gun safety and take responsible actions that can prevent child gun deaths and injuries, youth suicide and gunfire on school grounds. The program encourages parents and adults to:

  • Secure all guns in their home and vehicles
  • Model responsible behavior around guns
  • Ask about the presence of unsecured guns in other homes
  • Recognize the role of guns in suicide
  • Tell your peers to be SMART