Mother, friends struggle with emotions after teen's Instagram-streamed death
FOREST PARK, Ga. -- "The hardest part of today was when the man asked me what color casket that I wanted to put my 13-year-old son in," Shaniqua Stephens said.
She joined friends and family shedding tears, many still in disbelief, as they mourned the death of a teen boy.
Malachi Hemphill accidentally shot himself in the head while he was live on Instagram. On Wednesday night, his loved ones gathered in Forest Park for a vigil.
"Engulf them in your peace and your love lord god," said one man during a moment of prayer.
Dozens of Malachi’s loved ones stood hand-in-hand tonight - stronger together but deeply clouded by an unbelievable lack of understanding.
"Nobody ever expects their son to shoot theirself," Shaniqua said.
She heard the gunshot, saw the blood and was there when her 13-year-old son died at the hospital. But, Wednesday night, reality is still impossible to grasp.
"To find your 13-year-old son on the floor with a gunshot in his head, that's something you just never forget,” Shaniqua said. “You never forget the image."
Out of that image of tragedy, the community is trying to create one of unity. They lit candles, wrote notes and released balloons - all to remember Malachi.
"When I heard he died, I cried for 3 hours straight," Malachi’s friend Jaemere Bankston said.
Anthony Pennington, another friend, remembered him as easy-going.
"He was everything; he was cool, chill, calm - all that," he said.
Shaniqua wants her son's senseless death to be an example for others.
"If you see your friend with a gun, tell a parent,” she said. “Because this is a situation that didn't have to go this far."
If only one person had told her Monday night that Malachi was live on social media with a gun, he might still be alive.
"My son was the light of my life - anybody whoever met him – [he] brought joy to everybody," she said.
Shaniqua said she's not sure where Malachi got the gun. She heard it came from a friend. Detectives said they are working to find out where it came from.
His mother said she constantly monitored his social media accounts. Wednesday night, she urged other parents to do the same.