MILWAUKEE — A 10-year-old Milwaukee boy intentionally pointed a gun at his mother and then fatally shot her because she wouldn’t buy him a virtual reality headset, prosecutors said.
The boy initially told police the Nov. 21 shooting was an accident, according to criminal charges obtained by the Journal Sentinel. But later he said he had intentionally targeted his mother before shooting her. The boy was charged as an adult last week with first-degree reckless homicide.
Wisconsin law requires children as young as 10 to be charged as adults for certain serious crimes, although the boy’s lawyers may seek to transfer the case to juvenile court. The boy, who family members say has mental health issues, is being held in juvenile detention.
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“It’s an absolute family tragedy,” said Angela Cunningham, one of the boy’s lawyers. “I don’t think anyone would deny or disagree with that… The adult system is absolutely ill-equipped to meet the needs of a 10-year-old.”
The shooting took place shortly before 7 a.m. on November 21. According to the complaint, the boy first told officers he had retrieved the gun from his mother’s bedroom and gone to the basement where she was doing laundry. He said he was twirling the gun around his finger when it exploded. The boy has been allowed to stay with his family, and an initial statement from police says the shooting was caused by a child “playing” with a gun.
A day later, concerned relatives called the police.
The boy’s aunt said that when she picked up the boy, he retrieved a set of house keys containing a key to the gun’s key safe. When his aunt asked about the shooting, the boy said he pointed the gun at his mother and she told him to put it down.
The boy’s aunt and sister said he never cried or showed remorse. They also said he logged into his mother’s Amazon account and ordered an Oculus virtual reality headset the day after she died. That same morning, he physically assaulted his 7-year-old cousin.
Relatives said the boy had a history of disturbing behavior. When he was 4 years old, he swung the family pup by the tail, the complaint states. Six months ago, his family told police, the boy filled a balloon with a flammable liquid and set it on fire, causing an explosion that scorched furniture and carpeting. Relatives recalled that when asked about this, the boy said that he heard five imaginary people talking to him.
After learning these new details, Milwaukee police questioned the boy again. This time he told detectives he pointed the gun at his mother with both hands while in a firing position. He said he tried to shoot at a wall to “scare her” as she walked past him and he shot her, according to the complaint.
The boy told police he retrieved the gun from the safe that morning because his mother woke him up early – at 6 a.m. instead of 6:30 a.m. – and because she didn’t wouldn’t let him buy anything from Amazon.