The Jefferson County sheriff said that an 11-year-old boy shot and killed an 8-year-old girl who lived next door.
Authorities were called to Robin Road in White Pine around 7:30 p.m. Saturday on a report of a shooting.
Deputies found the girl on the ground with a gunshot wound to the chest. She was taken to Morristown-Hamblen Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
Sheriff Bud McCoig said the young girl’s next-door neighbor, a fifth grader at White Pine Elementary School, used his father’s 12-gauge single-shot shotgun to shoot and kill the girl from inside his house. The victim was in second grade at the same school.
Officials have not released the name of the shooter or the victim, but neighbors identified the victim as Maykayla Dyer.
White Pine Elementary School principal Bill Walker held a news conference on Monday morning.
“The emotions of our staff are so great when something like this happens that we’re all trying to love on and pray for and protect all of students,” Walker said. “We got together as a staff yesterday and had our emotional time with each other, to try to prepare for today. I don’t think that you can prepare for when you walk in and see students that are hurting.”
Walker also issued a statement before taking questions from the media on Monday.
“White Pine community has experienced a tragedy, with a shooting death of a student. The staff of White Pine School and Jefferson County Schools are saddened by this incident, but want to assure parents and community that counselors are on site to assist students and staff,” Walker said. “Resources are available for parents. Support will be continued, as needed, for the school. Our thoughts and prayers are with those involved from both families.”
Sheriff McCoig would not release any details on a possible motive, but neighbors say the two were arguing over a puppy.
“Wanting to see a puppy, the little girl laughed and told him no, and that was it,” neighbor Chasity Arwood said.
The boy was charged with first-degree murder in juvenile court and is in custody. A detention hearing is scheduled for 11 a.m. on Monday. A judge could determine at a later date if the cause should be transferred to adult court.
Sheriff McCoig said this has been a very tough case for his department to handle. He said the entire community was hurting and they’re getting through it “by the grace of God.”
Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department, White Pine Police Department and Jefferson County EMS responded. Sheriff McCoig says an autopsy has been ordered for the victim.
“We lost an 8-year-old child, and our department is hurting,” McCoig said.
Sheriff McCoig said the shooting happened in a neighborhood where all the kids knew each other and played together. The murder has shaken up the neighborhood and parents say their children are having a tough time handling it.
“Watching the Tennessee football game, heard the bang,” neighbor Chasity Arwood said. “And then everybody screaming that he shot her baby girl.”
“It breaks my heart because it’s my niece and daughter’s best friend,” neighbor Misty Edwards said. Edward’s niece, Hannah, was playing with Makayala and witnessed what happened.
Sheriff McCoig said the boy came from a family with six children. They can not say if he had any mental problems right now, but DCS is investigating.
“Guns should be under lock and key if you have a child, nowhere in arms reach of a child,” Chasity Arwood said.