Heartbroken Grandfather Speaks Out After 9-Year-Old’s Accidental Gun Death

Her grieving parents described the blond, chubby-cheeked 9-year-old as a “little angel.” The elementary school where she was in third grade said she was “a wonderfully bright and cheery presence.”

And the shooting that ended her life on Saturday afternoon has so far been deemed a tragic accident by the police chief in Irondale, Ala., the Birmingham suburb where Kimberly “Kimi” Reylander was mortally wounded by her 3-year-old brother. The toddler got hold of a loaded gun in a bedroom and aimed it at Kimi, who was sitting on the floor.

Now, as family members ready themselves for her funeral tomorrow, her distraught grandfather is speaking out about the tragic circumstances of Kimi’s death hours later at Children’s Hospital of Alabama in Birmingham, where she was airlifted by helicopter after being shot in the head.

Rodney Watson, Kimi’s maternal grandfather, is “still in disbelief,” he told Birmingham news station WBRC Monday. Watson said the shooting happened at Kimi’s great-grandparents’ home, where she and her toddler brother were visiting on Saturday. The boy found the loaded gun on a nightstand in a bedroom at about 1:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon, he said.

The gun was left on the nightstand by Kimi’s great-grandfather, police chief Ken Atkinson told AL.com. The great-grandfather didn’t know Kimi and her brother would be visiting that day, and he wasn’t home at the time of the shooting, said Atkinson. The kids’ grandmother and uncle were home, yet tragically they didn’t know there was a gun in the room where the children were playing.

“You know, I’ve always had this thought that this could only happen to someone else,” said Watson. “You know you only hear about these things. But when it hits home, it’s hard.”

Kimi was not the only child accidentally killed by a gun this year. Since the beginning of 2016, four small children have gotten hold of a loaded gun and fired at themselves, reported the Washington Post.

In the first 10 months of 2015, a child under 3 shot a gun at someone at least 43 times, with fatal results in 15 cases, according to a survey by the Washington Post.

As Kimi’s family and community struggle to come to grips with her passing, and her classmates at Irondale Community School wear blue clothes in honor of Kimi (blue was her favorite color), a neighbor of her great-grandparents set up a memorial fund.

“My family is a next door-neighbor of Kimi’s great-grandparents,” wrote Chrissy Coblentz on Go Fund Me, who set up the fund to help the family pay for Kimi’s funeral and other expenses. “My children played with Kimi in our and her backyard every weekend, rode the same school bus, and celebrated birthday’s together. We are shocked at this loss of this young life.”

Photo: Go Fund Me

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