US boy, 11, shoots and kills girl, eight, over puppy

CHICAGO (AFP) - A simple childish spat over a puppy led an 11-year-old boy to shoot and kill his eight-year-old neighbour in the US state of Tennessee, the girl’s grieving mother said.

Latasha Dyer said her daughter was playing outside when the boy asked to see her puppy. Little McKayla said “no,” and shortly after was shot in the chest.

“When we first moved to White Pine, the little boy was bullying McKayla,” Latasha Dyer told WATE 6 news in a video posted on the station’s website Sunday.

“He was making fun of her, calling her names, just being mean to her. I had to go the principal about him and he quit for a while and then all of a sudden yesterday he shot her.” 

Dyer was overcome with emotion as she spoke to the local television station from the front steps of a home in White Pine, Tennessee.

“I want her back in my arms, this is not fair. Hold and kiss your babies every night because you’re never promised the next day with them,” she said. “I hope the little boy learned his lesson because he took my baby’s life – and I can’t get her back.” 

She described her daughter as “a precious little girl, she was a mummy’s girl, no matter how bad of a mood you were in she could always make you smile”. Jefferson County Sheriff Bud McCoig said the boy has been charged with first degree murder.

A judge ordered him held in a juvenile detention center until the next hearing, which was set for October 28, McCoig told AFP.

“It’s a tragic incident we’ve had that an 11-year-old would take an eight-year-old’s life,” he said in a telephone interview.

The small town near Knoxville is reeling, but the local school and churches have stepped up to help people come to grips with the “shocking instance,” he said.

The boy was inside his home when he shot the girl with his father’s 12-gauge shotgun at about 7.30 pm Saturday, McCoig said. The gun was legally owned.

“The two were neighbours and in this neighbourhood all the children would play together and knew each other and all attended school together,” he said at a press conference.

McCoig declined to release any further details, explaining that five other children live in the boy’s home and two other children live in the girl’s home and “we’re trying to protect them, as much as they’ve been hurt by this tragedy”. “Our prayers are with the families that are involved in the tragic incident.”

Neighbour Chasity Arwood was watching football when she heard a shot ring out and was horrified to see the little girl bleeding to death in the grass.

“That weapon should have been under lock and key, or at least out of hand’s reach,” Arwood told WBIR news. “Trying to comfort her mama and her aunt and her grandma, and her grandpa and her sister and her brother: it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.” 

Neighbours who were caring for the family’s puppies said they seemed to be looking for the girl. One could be seen laying morosely next to a makeshift memorial of balloons, flowers and stuffed animals on the steps of the family’s mobile home.