On October 24, a two-year-old Michigan boy accidentally fatally shot himself in the head while sitting in a car with his mother.
A 44-year-old Michigan resident, Avis Damone Coward, now faces charges for illegal firearm possession following the shooting.
Coward left the toddler and the child’s mother in his white GMC Yukon at a gas station in Lansing. A surveillance video showed that soon after Coward left the car, a bullet hole appeared in the vehicle’s window. The mother was later seen exiting the vehicle with the bleeding child.
According to authorities, when Coward returned to the vehicle, he was recorded on surveillance picking up a firearm that had dropped outside and placing it back in the car. Coward was apprehended later that day, wearing attire different from what was captured in the surveillance footage, and his clothing reportedly had glass fragments on it.
Further investigation into Coward’s background uncovered his extensive criminal record, including six felony convictions, with at least two involving violent crimes. This criminal history prohibits him from legally owning firearms. Notably, Coward’s involvement in the incident was further established through recorded phone conversations from jail, where he instructed someone to collect his “phones” from a designated area. These “phones” were later identified by law enforcement as two handguns, one of which is suspected to be the gun involved in the fatal shooting.
Additionally, Coward’s vehicle was located in a field in Lansing, having been set on fire, an act perceived as an attempt to eliminate evidence.
The case has garnered considerable attention, particularly from U.S. Attorney Mark Totten of the Western District of Michigan, who has expressed grave concern over the impact of gun violence on children and vowed to utilize every resource to confront this challenge and prevent future occurrences.
James Deir, the FBI Detroit Field Division’s Special Agent in Charge, also commented on the tragedy, emphasizing the critical need for responsible gun ownership and secure storage.
Coward is facing federal prosecution due to his status as a felon unlawfully in possession of a firearm. He risks a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison if convicted. The case is part of the Project Safe Neighborhoods initiative, focused on reducing violent crime through collaborative efforts between law enforcement and the community.