Sheriff: Child accidentally fired shot from unsecured weapon in Beaverbrook Elementary parking lot

SHEILA A. MATHEWS :::

Spalding County Sheriff Darrell Dix has confirmed the Monday afternoon shooting in the Beaverbrook Elementary School parking lot resulted from a weapon being left unsecured in the presence of a child.

Dix on Monday reported the preliminary investigation indicated the shooting was accidental.

Investigators responded to WellStar Spalding Regional Hospital at approximately 2:53 p.m. Monday to a report of a gunshot victim.

The victim, who has been identified as Shameka Blackmon, age 24, reported she had been shot in the school parking lot, officials say.

A female acquaintance, Kenya Sandifer, a minor child and Blackmon’s sister – both of whom are individuals with special needs – were reportedly with the victim at the time of the shooting and when she was driven to the hospital.

Dix reported the incident to officials of the Griffin-Spalding County School System, and Beaverbrook Elementary staff were notified.

SCSO criminal and crime scene investigators responded to the school and hospital.

Dix reported to The GRIP from the scene Monday that multiple conflicting statements had been made by Blackmon.

Dix has now elaborated, saying that Blackmon initially told investigators she had been accidentally shot “by a friend.”

When the group left the school parking lot, Blackmon called family members who met her near Georgia Highway 92 and drove her the remaining way to the hospital, Dix said.

Once at the hospital, it appeared the victim had three separate wounds, but it was later determined that Blackmon had sustained a single gunshot entry wound, and the remaining injuries were exit wounds caused by fragmentation, doctors reported to the SCSO.

Investigators interviewed Blackmon and those with her at the time of the shooting, and video from the school surveillance camera was obtained for review.

Based on those interviews, evidence collected and forensics, Dix said it is believed that Sandifer, who is licensed to carry a firearm, removed it from her person and placed it on the vehicle’s back seat before entering the school for the annual awards ceremony.

Officials say when the ceremony concluded, Sandifer, Blackmon, the sister and minor child returned to the car to leave. Blackmon and Sandifer were standing at the rear passenger side of the vehicle loading a cooler into the car, and the sister and the minor child were on the rear driver’s side of the vehicle.

Dix said it appears the minor child picked up the weapon that had been left unsecured in the back seat of the car and fired the shot that struck Blackmon.

He said the child then dropped the firearm back on the seat, where Sandifer retrieved it and secured it in the hatch area of the car.

According to a press release issued by Dix, they all entered the vehicle, leaving the cooler in the parking lot, and made their way towards the hospital.

When recovered by investigators, the weapon was in a state of malfunction known as a “stove pipe,” with a spent casing hanging partially outside of the chamber. Only one projectile and the casing lodged in the gun were recovered. There were no signs or evidence of more than one gunshot being fired.

Shameka Blackmon was flown by helicopter to Atlanta Regional Medical Center for treatment of her injuries.

“A couple of things that I also want to point out – the Griffin Spalding County School System has been criticized by some for not notifying parents when the incident first occurred. In fact, the school system was not aware of the incident until I notified them that we had received the call to go to Spalding Regional and meet with the victim. Once I notified them they immediately went into action,” Dix said. “All students and parents attending the ceremony were in the building when the shot was fired. As soon as it was fired, the victim and those with her left the school to go to the hospital. By the time the Sheriff’s Office received the call, school had already begun dismissal. A call notifying parents went out as soon as the facts were known.”

Dix also addressed rumors circulating regarding the shooting.

“Contrary to what has been stated by some, there was no shooter on the loose in the area, there was no fight in the parking lot that led to the shooting, there was no domestic call that led to the shooting, these are just rumors. At least two other witnesses stepped forward and stated that they did not see the shot fired but heard it while they were in the parking lot. One thought that the sound was a firecracker, the other that it was a vehicle backfiring,” Dix said. “It appears that the shooting was a horrible accident attributable to the weapon not being properly secured around a child. It was an isolated incident and there was no threat to the school, students, or staff. As of now, the criminal portion of the investigation is still ongoing.”

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