A man dancing with a gun on New Year’s Eve accidentally fired his weapon, fatally shooting a 4-year-old girl inside a Dallas-area home.
Messiah Taplin was pronounced dead at a hospital just after 1 a.m. Friday, prompting a homicide investigation overnight and a manslaughter charge against the alleged shooter, 21-year-old Zantyler Foster-Hooks.
Police said the suspect and several other partygoers tried to cover up the shooting, falsely claiming that the child had been shot by a stray bullet.
Officers were called to the apartment complex in the city of Arlington around 12:30 a.m. for a report of shots fired, authorities said in a statement. When they arrived, they found a blood trail leading to an apartment that was unlocked and with no one inside.
Police soon learned that several adults had driven a child with a gunshot wound to a hospital in nearby Grand Prairie and tracked them down to question the group.
“Their story initially was they were just celebrating New Year’s Eve inside the apartment and a stray bullet from outside entered through the glass sliding door,” said Lt. Chris Cook, of the Arlington Police Department.
“We were able to debunk that story based upon ballistic evidence at the scene… that round did not enter through the apartment window,” he said.
Investigators said Foster-Hooks, whose relationship to the victim has not been released, eventually admitted to shooting the boy.
“He claimed that they were dancing inside the apartment, they had a gun out, it accidentally went off and struck the child in the head,” Cook told reporters at a news conference broadcast by local news station KDFW.
The suspect is being held on one count of manslaughter.
No one else has been arrested, but police said the investigation is ongoing.
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