Case of girl killed by toddler sparks curiosity, sympathy

FRESNO, Calif.

The 6-year-old Fresno girl shot and killed by her own younger brother attended a school that's all too familiar with death.

Emily Lavender is the third student at Maple Creek Elementary School to die since 2005.

Grief counselors will be at the school Tuesday to help explain to the students what happened.

But unfortunately, fifth and sixth graders at the school have been through tragedy twice before.

Lavender had two weeks left in the first grade when tragedy struck at home.

Fresno Police investigators say the girl's 2-year-old brother somehow got his hands on a semi-automatic handgun, walked into a bedroom, and accidentally shot Emily.

Neighbors took care of the four surviving siblings as police tried to piece together what happened.

And throughout the Northeast Fresno neighborhood, Lavender's death is sparking both sympathy and curiosity.

"It does hit home because we have two little ones," neighbor Todd Conlan said. "I personally have a handgun in the house, but I take the precautions to keep it up and not keep it loaded."

The tragedy is also hitting home at Maple Creek Elementary School.

The principal notified staff members so they could prepare for questions from students, questions the staff has unfortunately had to answer before.

Lavender is the third Maple Creek student to die in the last six years.

An unlicensed teenage driver killed 9-year-old Sebastian Amezcua in a crash in Dec. 2007. And a car hit and killed a second grader in a grocery store parking lot two years earlier.

Police say Lavender's death was an accident, but they're not sure how the little boy got access to the gun.

Many neighbors said the parents should be punished for making the shooting possible, but others believe that would just be piling on.

"What punishment could be handed down worse than what they're already going through?" Conlan said. "I mean, certainly something needs to be done, but I can't imagine living with that for the rest of your life."

Police say they removed several other guns from the home, but they're still not commenting on whether they'll pursue criminal charges connected to Lavender's death.

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