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Florissant girl, 6, accidentally shot and killed by brother while parents attend Christmas party

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Maliyah Palmer

Maliyah Palmer, in a family photo released by the Parkway School District

FLORISSANT • A 6-year-old girl was accidentally shot and killed by an older sibling Friday while their parents were away at a Christmas party, police say.

Maliyah Palmer died after being shot in the head Friday night by her 12-year-old brother. The boy found a 9mm handgun in a dresser drawer in his parents’ bedroom, then accidentally shot Maliyah in the head, police say.

At the time, Maliyah and her brother were being watched by their 16-year-old sister at the home in the first block of Holly Lane. Officers were called there just before 11 p.m. Friday. Maliyah died later at a hospital.

A child “accidentally discharged a round,” Florissant police Officer Steve Michael said in a press release.

“Investigators have determined that this was a tragic accident and no charges will be filed at this time,” police said in the statement.

On Monday, Police Chief Timothy Lowery said the press release announcing no charges was wrong. He said investigators will turn their findings over to prosecutors, who can decide what charges, if any, are filed. That is standard procedure in any case, Lowery said.

But, he added, it won’t be easy.

“You couldn’t have written a more tragic script, the whole thing is just so tragic and terrible, but we have to put our personal feelings aside and do the law enforcement side of this,” Lowery said.

Lowery said the parents were at a Christmas party. The 16-year-old girl was baby sitting her younger siblings when the accidental shooting happened. The boy found the 9mm handgun in a dresser drawer in his parents’ bedroom. His younger sister was near him when he accidentally shot her.

“All of the officers who responded to the scene are mothers and fathers, so you can only imagine how personal it is to see a child shot in the back of the head. We will have counselors here for a debriefing hopefully this week to make sure the mental state of our officers is OK,” the chief added.

Maliyah was a first-grader at Green Trails Elementary School in Chesterfield, said Parkway School District spokeswoman Cathy Kelly. The district brought additional counselors to the school on Monday morning to help classmates cope, Kelly said.

In a letter to parents Sunday, principal Rene Sommers said the school was working with Annie’s Hope, a bereavement center for young people.

“Our goal will be to keep the day and routine normal,” Sommers said in her letter. “We will share the news honestly and openly so that understanding, processing, grieving and healing can begin.”

Ed Magee, a spokesman for St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch, said police had not presented their findings to prosecutors as of Monday morning. He said someone from the prosecutor’s office was in touch with Florissant police over the weekend and working with Florissant on the investigation.

Parents have been charged in similar Missouri cases where children shot someone after finding a gun that was not kept secure. Charges against such gun owners have included endangering the welfare of a child. First-degree endangering the welfare of a child is a felony punishable in Missouri by up to seven years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Just last week in Pagedale, a 2-year-old boy found a 9mm pistol in his father’s backpack and shot himself in the arm and his sleeping 7-year-old brother in the head with the same round. Both children survived. That shooting took place about 9:30 p.m. Monday inside a home in the 6700 block of Schofield Avenue. Investigators haven’t determined if charges will be filed yet in that case.

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