Man arrested on suspicion of firearm charge after fatal shooting of Wichita 3-year-old

07/30/2014 10:15 AM

08/08/2014 10:25 AM

A 30-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of criminal possession of a firearm after an apparent accidental shooting in which a 3-year-old Wichita boy died on Tuesday night, police said.

Jahmez Hunt, 3, had retrieved the gun from cabinets above the refrigerator at their home at 525 E. Lincoln just before 5 p.m. Tuesday when he accidentally shot himself in the chest, Lt. Jeff Gilmore said.

Jahmez died a short time later while undergoing surgery at Via Christi Hospital St. Francis, Gilmore said.

Mario T. Benjamin, 30, the boyfriend of Jahmez’s mother, was later booked into the Sedgwick County Jail on suspicion of criminal possession of a firearm.

Jahmez pulled a chair next to the kitchen counter, climbed onto the counter so he could reach cabinets above the refrigerator and reach into the cabinet for the handgun, Gilmore said.

“It would appear the gun went off while he was standing on the kitchen cabinet” before getting down to the floor, Gilmore said.

Benjamin and the mother of the four children in the house were asleep in a back bedroom for “a long time” at the house leading up to the shooting, Gilmore said. An investigation revealed one of the children had shown the gun to the others earlier in the day.

“Children, being curious as they are, went and located the gun again and played with the gun,” Gilmore said.

Sisters ages 6 and 8 were playing in another room at the time of the shooting, he said, while Jahmez and his 7-year-old brother were in the kitchen.

The incident remains under investigation, he said, and charges related to the shooting remain possible.

Benjamin served prison time after being sentenced in 2007 for aggravated assault committed in 2006, Kansas Department of Corrections records show. He also has a domestic battery conviction for a crime committed in 2011, records show. He is being held on $5,000 bond.

“He is a convicted felon and can not possess a firearm,” Gilmore said of Benjamin.

Jahmez’s mother did not realize there was a gun in the house, Gilmore said. Benjamin lived there with her and the children.

“It’s so vitally important, with the curiosity of children, to keep the guns out of reach, unloaded and secured,” Gilmore said.

Gun safes, locked boxes, trigger guards, and cables that prevent guns from being loaded are among the options gun owners have for keeping loaded weapons away from children.

Tuesday’s shooting was the second time in three months that a Wichita child was shot to death at home. On April 30, a 19-month old boy died shortly after being shot in the chest after three young children found a gun.

In the April shooting, three children – ages 3, 4 and 19 months – found a handgun stored in a nightstand at a house in the 1300 block of North Pennsylvania.

The 4-year-old pulled the trigger, and the bullet struck his younger brother, according to police. The 33-year-old father of the children and his brother were in another room at the time.

That case remains under review.

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