Boy's Death Called Accidental
Children Found .357 Magnum While Left Alone, Police Say

By Nurith C. Aizenman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 23, 2001; Page C08

A 4-year-old boy killed in his Laurel home Friday afternoon was accidentally shot in the head by a 6-year-old relative while his mother was out Christmas shopping, city police said yesterday.

Officials said the shooting occurred after Clarisa Williams, 25, left her son Eli Williams and three visiting children -- Eli's 6-year-old nephew and 10- and 11-year-old nieces -- unattended at her apartment in the 100 block of Bryan Court for about two hours.

While Williams and her sister were out, Eli and the 6-year-old discovered a .357-caliber Magnum belonging to Eli's parents lying under a bed. They were playing with the gun when it accidentally went off, said Jim Collins, a spokesman for Laurel police.

Eli was pronounced dead at the apartment by emergency personnel, who arrived after receiving a 911 call from one of the other children at about 2:45 p.m.

Police told Clarisa Williams of her son's death when she and her sister arrived home about 4:30 p.m. Friday. "Suddenly I heard her just hollering. No words, just screaming," said Maya Jones, a neighbor who watched through her window.

Eli's father, Wayne Williams, who was in Jamaica helping to care for his sick mother, was notified by telephone, police said.

Maryland law makes it a misdemeanor to leave a firearm where a minor could gain access to it, punishable by a fine of up to $1,000.

But that law is rarely applied in Maryland, and Collins said no arrests have been made

The state's attorney's office could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Clarisa and Wayne Williams, who work for the U.S. Marine Corps, also have a 2-year-old son who was not in the house at the time of the shooting, neighbors said. They described the couple as friendly and responsible.

"They were always with their kids -- I never knew of them leaving them," said a neighbor who declined to be identified. "That's why I took this so hard. I couldn't believe it."

The neighbor said Eli was a sweet, gregarious child who had his father's height and his mother's beautiful black ringlets. "You could just tell he was going to grow up to be handsome. It's just so sad," she said.

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