By Dylan Deprey
It was a little after Noon on Saturday, March 10. While most nine-year-olds were on their way to their cousin’s house, or watching the last bit of Saturday morning cartoons or even running errands with mom, Miyanna Jelks was battling for her life.
Her parents rushed her to St. Joseph’s Hospital, and by 12:16 p.m. she was admitted to the Emergency Room.
Sadly, only a half hour later, Jelks had succumbed to an accidental gunshot wound to her neck.
She was the first gun related child death in Milwaukee.
It was on Top of the Shoe Box
Earlier that morning, Marcel Jelks and Talisha Lee left their ten-year-old son to watch over their five other children at their home near N. 38th St. and W. Ruby Ave.
According to the criminal complaint, Jelks told police he and Lee had left to go clothes shopping and had been gone for around 30- to-45 minutes.
Lee had purchased the 9-mm handgun from Cabela’s a day earlier and the red gunlock sat on top of a shoebox in their room, where the gun was stored.
As her parents were out of the house, Miyanna Jelks had found the gun in her parents closet. Her brother came up to check on her and found her holding the gun. He took it from her and unloaded it. As she began to spin around the room, he waved the gun around, pulled the trigger and accidentally fired the gun, striking Jelks.
The children had no way of contacting their parents or emergency services. As Jelks was bleeding, her brother carried her downstairs and situated her with pillows until her parents showed up shortly after.
Jelks and Lee were taken into custody and are facing charges of child neglect resulting in a death, felony possession of a gun and possession of THC with intent to sell.
An Experience No Parent Should Face
The following Monday, elected officials and gun safety advocates met to speak in regards to the tragic accidental shooting death of Miyanna Jelks.
“To me as a parent this is the worst nightmare a parent could experience,” Mayor Tom Barrett said. “Losing a child in any situation is a complete nightmare, but this is heartbreaking and troubling.”
6th District Alderwoman Milele Coggs said she was as shocked as the rest of the community to hear about a child dying at the hands of an accidental shooting.
“I am the mother of a nine-year-old little girl myself, and I can’t imagine the pain the parents and family feel at this moment,” Coggs said. “When we have a loss like this, we have to realize that this not only impacts the family but, the entire community.”
Representatives from WestCare Wisconsin were at the conference and said they were going throughout District 7, where the shooting happened, to hand out free gun locks.
Gunlocks were also free at Milwaukee Police Districts 2 through 7 and City of Milwaukee Health Centers. The Office of Violence Prevention created informational pamphlets and dispersed them along with throughout the community and on their website.
“I implore adults to keep all guns safely out of the reach of kids. Please use trigger locks or a gun safe if need be. Keeping guns under lock and key could help prevent tragedies like this one,” stated District 7 Alderman Khalif Rainey, in a press release.
Ald. Coggs said that tragic events like this cause longstanding trauma for the family, friends and community.
“There is no excuse and it’s free, and if it can save the life of another child so we don’t have to be sitting at another press conference like this then it is worth it,” Coggs said.
A GoFundMe has been created for the family to assist with funeral costs, to donate visit https://www.gofundme.com/miyanna-jelks-memorial-fund