ST. LOUIS — A stuffed animal now sits outside the north St. Louis home where police say 11-year-old David Winston accidentally shot himself.
Officers rushed the child to a hospital where he later died.
"It's traumatizing. We never expected to hear anything like this," said Yolanda Burgess.
Burgess doesn't live in the area.
However, when she visits the Jeff-Vander-Lou Neighborhood, her little ones were excited to see David.
"My children and my cousins used to play with him and now this has happened. They would never see him again and it's just sad," said Burgess.
Around 11:30 Thursday morning police responded to a shooting call at the child's home in the 3100 block of Brantner Place near Webster Avenue.
Officers found an unconscious David not breathing and suffering from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his head.
"It's definitely a big shock. I can't even explain it man, " said the brother of the 34-year-old suspect, Tracy Smith.
"It's an innocent kid," said Jamarr Laney, Smith's childhood friend and co-worker.
Both men told 5 On Your Side said Winston found the gun on a shelf, upstairs in his mother's bedroom closet.
They say the gun was inside her purse and covered at the time.
They say Smith was "dating the boy's mother and did not have the gun locked up."
Smith's brother says the suspect moved in with Winston, his three older siblings and mom nine months ago.
"The little boy went around searching for the gun and found it. My brother went to work around eight and then about two hours later the boy's mother called him and asked him to take her somewhere. The children were home alone. His 15-year-old sister ran outside and screamed 'help my brother's been shot,'" said Smith's brother.
A probable cause statement reveals police later discovered the gun was reported stolen out of Bridgeton in north St. Louis County.
Smith admitted he "bought it from a man on the street on the west side."
"The Tracy I know is a good guy. He loved his girlfriend's four children like those were his kids. He has two sons of his own who are 7 and 8 years old. For the last 12, 15 years, he's worked really hard around this neighborhood with me as a maintenance worker for Brantner Place Townhomes," said Jamarr Laney.
"I do think and believe that he's been wrongfully charged. I do understand that they may have had to charge him for the gun maybe, but anything outside of that, no," said Laney.
"We were all together a couple of days ago talking, laughing and having a good time. Now, I'm going through the motions of losing my brother and his stepson. That's real heartbreaking," said Tracy Smith's older brother.
Smith remains in jail without bond.
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