Police: 8-year-old shoots, kills elderly caregiver after video game
(CNN) — An 8-year-old boy intentionally shot and killed his elderly caregiver on Thursday evening after playing a violent video game, authorities say.
Marie Smothers was pronounced dead at the scene with a gunshot wound to the head in a mobile home park in Slaughter, Louisiana, the East Feliciana Parish Sheriff’s Department said in a statement. Slaughter is about 20 miles north of Baton Rouge.
Authorities identified the woman as the boy’s “caregiver,” without stating whether she is a relative. But CNN affiliate WBRZ reported that the woman was the boy’s grandmother.
Smothers was 87, public records show.
“By accounts of relatives of the victim, as well as friends of the family, the victim and the juvenile had a normal, loving, relationship and even shared the same bedroom,” the sheriff’s department said.
The gun belonged to Smothers, WBRZ reported. CNN affiliate WAFB reported that a man identifying himself as the boy’s father also said the gun belongs to Smothers.
Although the boy initially told investigators that he accidentally shot the woman while playing with a firearm, the probe led authorities to believe he “intentionally shot Mrs. Smothers in the back of the head as she sat in her living room watching television,” the sheriff’s department statement said.
The boy won’t face charges. Under Louisiana law, a child under 10 is exempt from criminal responsibility.
“We have a child who does not know the impact of the consequences of the act he committed,” Sclynski Legier, a lawyer, told CNN affiliate WAFB. “He truly doesn’t understand that.”
The sheriff’s department press release implies the child’s activities in a violent virtual world may have led to the killing.
“Although a motive for the shooting is unknown at this time investigators have learned that the juvenile suspect was playing a video game on the Play Station III ‘Grand Theft Auto IV’, a realistic game that has been associated with encouraging violence and awards points to players for killing people, just minutes before the homicide occurred.”
He is now with his parents.
Neighbors say the mobile home park is generally a quiet and safe place, and they wonder why precautions hadn’t been taken.
“Where did she have the gun? Where was It placed? Was it in his eyesight?” Johnnie Smith told WBRZ. “That’s what kind of thoughts are going through my head.”
Violence in video games
There has long been debate about whether virtual violence in video games leads to actual violence, and it’s become more heated since 26 people were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012. Like many young males who went on shooting rampages in the past, the shooter, Adam Lanza, was reportedly obsessed with violent video games.
Speaking soon after the shootings at Sandy Hook, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who led his state through grieving after a mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, speculated that there was a connection.
“There might well be some direct connection between people who have some mental instability and when they go over the edge — they transport themselves, they become part of one of those video games,” Hickenlooper said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “Perhaps that’s why all these assault weapons are used.”
A month after the Sandy Hook shooting, John Riccitiello, president and CEO of the video game maker Electronic Arts, said in a conference call with bank analysts there wasn’t a connection, but the industry faces a “perception issue,” the BBC reported.
Vice President Joe Biden, who is heading an inquiry into the causes of gun violence, has floated the idea of taxing violent games and sending proceeds to help victims and their families, Forbes.com reported.
Studies by reputable academic and medical sources have come to a variety of conclusions over the years. The Obama administration called for more research into the connection following the Sandy Hook shooting.
By Lauren Russell