5-year-old killed in Lithonia home was shot by playmate, police say

Jada Willingham was found lying on the floor in a bedroom after being shot by a friend.
Jada Willingham was found lying on the floor in a bedroom after being shot by a friend.

Credit: Keisha Walker via GoFundMe

Credit: Keisha Walker via GoFundMe

A pair of young friends sat together, playing in a back room of a Lithonia house Friday afternoon. The 5-year-olds’ plaything wasn’t a toy, but a handgun. The game was seeing what would happen when one of the tiny girls pulled the trigger.

From the kitchen, their babysitter heard a gunshot ring out. Then, crying.

The woman opened the door of the room to find tragedy on the other side: one girl bleeding from her face, her friend standing nearby.

“I only pulled (the trigger) back a little bit,” the child explained.

The victim, Jada Willingham, died Friday after being taken to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston Hospital. The two girls had known each other their entire lives.

DeKalb County police investigators said Jada was one of four children at the home on Madras Court at the time of the fatal shooting. When officers arrived about 3:20 p.m., they found her lying on the floor in a bedroom, according to a police incident report. Her babysitter, who was the grandmother of one of the children, was kneeling beside her with a cloth, trying to stop the blood that was gushing from her face.

The 68-year-old babysitter told police that Jada and the other child had been playing together, the incident report said. At some point, the girls found a handgun.

The 9mm Smith & Wesson was found “without a holster, full magazine, with a round chambered,” according to a DeKalb arrest warrant. The incident report said the gun belonged to the other children’s mother, who is in the military.

Explore1 arrested in DeKalb shooting of 5-year-old girl

The children took the gun to a bedroom, where Jada told the other child to pull the trigger, the babysitter told police.

The woman said she heard the gunshot from the kitchen and rushed to the bedroom to see what had happened. She found Jada bleeding.

It was too late.

During the investigation, the other 5-year-old showed police where she and Jada had found the weapon, the incident report said.

“She grabbed my hand and led me down the hall into her parents’ room and advised she located it on the floor on top of a small ammo box beside the bed,” the officer wrote in the report.

The young girl told investigators she didn’t know there were bullets in it.

The next day, police arrested 36-year-old Chad Brooks Sr., the father of the other children, in connection with the shooting. He is charged with second-degree murder and second-degree cruelty to children after police said in his arrest warrant that he left the handgun unattended.

Police said they are not considering any other charges.

Jada’s mother, Keisha Walker, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution she wants to talk about her daughter’s memory in the future, but she was too emotional to have that conversation at this time. She has created a GoFundMe page to raise money for Jada’s funeral.

“Due to this sad accident a mother is without her beautiful 5-year-old daughter this holiday season,” the fundraising page said. “This 5-year-old little girl will never get to see another birthday, holidays, school graduation again, and it isn’t fair.”

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