The fatal pop rang familiar to next-door neighbor Charles Pelton.
“It was one shot, small caliber,” the ex-Marine said.
Not so long after, Laderika Smith came out of her house on the 2200 block of North Galvez Street late Sunday morning, screaming.
“Lord help me, my child is dying!” the woman said, according to another neighbor.
Once a medical crew arrived, a 5-year-old girl emerged on a stretcher with a hole torn through her forehead.
The little girl died in the hospital Sunday evening, and police said they planned to book Smith with second-degree murder, citing negligence in a case that left 7th Ward neighbors and relatives stunned and suspicious.
New Orleans police said the little girl, who was not identified as of late Sunday, shot herself accidentally, armed with a weapon that a relative who lives there, Leon Warren, told The Advocate he was holding for someone else.
Warren lifted his arm to indicate he had kept the gun high up, though he declined to specify, or show, where he kept it.
None of the neighbors seemed to know the child’s name. Pelton just called her “Sweety.”
“I’m a strong person. It’s a lot to deal with,” said Danielle Carter, a cousin of the girl. “Kids don’t ask for this. Kids don’t deserve this.”
Police said the first call came in around 10:50 a.m. Neighbors said it took just minutes for police and emergency crews to arrive. They also said Smith had been down the street when the shot was fired.
Police said Smith, 28, told detectives she had locked her daughter inside the home while she went to the store, then returned to find the girl lying shot on the bedroom floor.
A police spokeswoman said detectives recovered the weapon, a .38-caliber revolver.
One neighbor, who declined to be identified, said the mother called him over from his porch as he cleaned his shoes, and he saw the girl gasping for air and heaving in the second room of the shotgun house.
“I seen it. She was next to a pillow, on her back, a hole in her head,” the neighbor said. “I ain’t touch her. I just look at her. I said, ‘Who shot your daughter?’ She said, ‘I don’t know.’ ”
Warren, who acknowledged keeping the gun, refused to talk about the shooting, saying only, “I was at work. I wasn’t even here. … I’m feeling (messed up) by this child being dead, period.”
Pelton said he was just waking up when he heard the single shot.
A tenant in a Unity of Greater New Orleans apartment, he said he stepped on his stoop to find “all hell broke loose.”
“We hear it so often here and it doesn’t normally bug us,” he said of the gunfire.
“I still can’t get her face out of my head. They can keep killing each other all day long, but when a child gets hit, that’s when things need to be done.”
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