GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - As his investigators began to collect evidence Friday night, and they started to piece together the details of a north Gulfport shooting that took the life of a six-year-old boy, Gulfport Police Chief Leonard Papania made a sobering realization.
"We've got to get serious about disarming our youth," he said.
Papania spoke on the phone with WLOX News Sunday morning. His first comments since Zaylan Sparkman's shooting death two days earlier focused on the gun used to kill the little boy.
"The child had an illegal firearm," the chief confirmed, explaining how police believe Albert Deonta Craft, III got access to a weapon he reportedly used to shoot and kill his brother. "We believe he obtained a gun criminally."
Investigators' theory that the 16-year-old Craft illegally got access to a gun is one of the new developments in this manslaughter case. Where it came from has not been determined yet, the chief said.
The fact Craft reportedly had it, Chief Papania said, is what worries him so much.
"This situation is indicative of what I believe is a bigger problem," Papania told WLOX News. "We have young people getting guns illegally and using them recklessly."
Despite a comment from one family member to WLOX News that multiple gunshots might have been fired on Sabine Street Friday night, Chief Papania says his detectives didn't corroborate the multiple shots theory.
The chief wouldn't elaborate on the motive behind the shooting because the case is still in its early stages. He did talk about why police determined Craft allegedly committed manslaughter and didn't believe the gunshot was an accident.
"Based on what police saw and the interviews conducted," he explained, "we believe the suspect acted in a manner where he should have known that this could have had a bad ending."
Chief Papania is a firm believer the repeated violence seen in our neighborhoods will only stop if adults get more involved in creating safer communities. Illegal guns in the hands of teens under the age of 18 "isn't just a police issue. This is a community issue where adults have to get involved," he said during the Sunday phone call.
"This horrible and sad case is the exact representation of why people need to get involved and disarm kids."
Chief Papania expects to talk more about that later this week.