2-year-old may have been killed by stray bullet

MGN File Photo
MGN File Photo

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — A 2-year-old boy shot dead while playing in the front yard of a South Bend home with his 7-year-old sister may have been struck by a bullet from a gunfight between two rival groups that began about a block away, police said.

An argument began between the two groups around 6 p.m. Wednesday about a block from where the 2-year-old was playing, and escalated into shots being fire, police said. One group began running west toward the boy and the other group continued shooting.

Police say no one has been arrested and no suspects were in custody Thursday in the shooting of John Swoeveland Jr. Autopsy results released Thursday showed the boy died of a gunshot wound to the chest and ruled the death a homicide.

Donnie Price said his 26-year-old daughter, Lola, who has a history of seizures, was outside playing with the two children when the shooting occurred, about a half-mile south of the University of Notre Dame. He said he was inside when he heard the 7-year-old girl yelling and his first thought was his daughter was having a seizure. That’s when he saw the boy on the ground.

Lola Price said she thought the bullet came from a passing car.

“It was just a flash. It happened real quickly,” she said. “It scared me.”

Donnie Price said the boy’s parents at first thought he had been hit by a car. The front yard is small and a sidewalk separates it from the street.

“The mom, when she saw the blood along the edge of the Pampers when she pulled his shirt up, that’s when she saw the gunshot wound,” Price said.

Price used his cellphone to record the scene moments later. The video shows the boy’s mother shouting as she knees over her child. It also shows other people yelling. An emergency worker lifts the boy’s lifeless body and carries it to an ambulance.

The temperatures Wednesday evening were in the mid-50s on one of the first relatively warm days after a cold winter that saw the northern Indiana city receive more than 100 inches of snow. The street has signs at regular intervals warning drivers to “Watch for children” and children were also at a playground nearby behind the Perley Primary Fine Arts Academy.

Neighbors say they consider the neighborhood safe. Sheila King Martinez said her three children, ages 6 to 10, were at the playground across the street from their home. She said she didn’t know about the gunfight until police came and roped the area off, but said the shooting has her worried.

“We’re just going to have to figure out something to do with the kids,” she said.

At the home of the shooting Thursday, the only sign of what happened were some marks on the ground left by police. A child’s small blue chair, a riding vehicle and swing sat next to the dilapidated two-story blue home, which had a couch sitting on the curb in front of it. The police report listed the home as the address for the family, but the boy’s uncle, Travis Debaillie, said the family was visiting an aunt’s home at the time of the shooting.

A person answering the door at the home Thursday declined comment.

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