13-Year-Old Accidentally Kills Himself on Instagram Live as Friends Watch

Malachi Hemphill

Yet another child has lost his life because of a gun -- this time, in a horrific accident that was broadcast on Instagram for all his friends to see. Thirteen-year-old Malachi Hemphill was live on Instagram Monday evening holding a gun when it suddenly went off. He died after being rushed to the hospital. Now his family and friends are left wondering how and why this terrible tragedy occurred, and grieving for a young teen who will never have the chance to grow up.


His mother, Shaniqua Stephens, said she had just watched Malachi take out the trash earlier before she heard the gun go off.

"I heard a big boom," she told WXIA. "I couldn't tell if it was a gun shot or what."

Stephens and her daughter ran upstairs to Malachi's room, where they made an unimaginably terrible discovery.

"We kicked in the door. We found him just laying there in a pool of blood," Stephens said. "My daughter screamed and said, 'Mom, turn his phone off!' As I proceeded to look at his phone he was on Instagram Live."

According to Stephens, about 40 to 50 kids then gathered outside her house: "I guess these were the kids that were watching on live that live in the area. I guess when it happened they just ran over here."

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Stephens thinks that someone told Malachi to put a clip in the gun during the video and that it went off accidentally; she does not believe his death was a suicide. She also isn't sure how or where he got the gun, though someone told her he got it from a friend who got it from someone else. Stephens said that both she and her husband Ernest, Malachi's stepfather, tried to monitor his social media activity but that it was difficult to keep up.

"[The] detective asked me yesterday, 'What was Malachi's Instagram name?' I couldn't tell him what Malachi's Instagram name was because he would make up so many different pages," she said.

And now she is giving this advice to parents: "Monitor their phones, just monitor your children. More now than anything."

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So incredibly sad, and so frustrating. As the mother of a teenager and a tween, I completely relate to the difficulties of keeping tabs on your children's social media presence -- they're super tech savvy (trust me, they know more about this stuff than you do), and if they want to keep something secret, there's a very good chance they'll figure out a way.

And the fact that Malachi's shooting was broadcast online where so many impressionable kids were watching just adds another level of horror: How can they be expected to cope with the trauma of seeing something no one should ever have to see, at any age?

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Ultimately though, this isn't a cautionary tale about the dangers of social media -- this is a cautionary tale about guns. We see these stories all the time, and yet the reality doesn't seem to be sinking in: When guns get into the wrong hands, innocent people (oftentimes children) die. And it's far, far too easy for guns to get into the wrong hands.

Even if Stephens knew everything her son was doing on social media, how could she have known he would be able to get a gun, or that he even wanted one in the first place? It's doubtful that he tweeted about it or made his plans public in any way. Where did this gun come from? Did another kid steal it from his parents? Did it get carried in a backpack to school and passed along on the playground? Every possibility is incomprehensibly chilling. How many other kids are doing the same thing right now?

To watch Malachi's mom speak is just heartbreaking, but such an important reminder of what's at stake when it comes to gun control.

Rest in peace, Malachi.

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