(Jamaica Observer) The entire community of Perth Town was contorted with grief yesterday in the wake of the tragic passing of a well-loved, 11-year-old autistic boy who shot himself while playing with his father’s licenced firearm late Saturday morning.
The deceased has been identified as Malique Lawman of Bellevue, Perth Town.
At Bellevue United Church, which the 11-year-old regularly attended, tears ran freely down the cheeks of Reverend Novlyn Hanson and two church sisters who she sought to comfort. The clergywoman declined an interview, saying she was too overwhelmed to speak with the media.
“It sad. It sad,” one of the elderly church sisters muttered.
The affection for Malique transcended denomination as Bellevue Seventh-day Adventist church member Elaine Mills, who we ran into on the street, spoke glowingly of the boy.
“When I got the news I was in church and after lunchtime we went and visit the mother and we prayed for her.
“We are in sorrow,” Mills said.
A distraught family member, Carl Bright, disclosed that about 11:00 am Malique’s father hurried downstairs to retrieve his son before he could reach the gate and head for the road.
Before returning upstairs, the father stopped to hang some clothes on the line while the 11-year-old ran back upstairs.
Before the father could finish, he heard an explosion coming from his room.
“They were upstairs and the little youth came downstairs, go out to the gate and he [the father] came down to retrieve him because he is autistic and don’t know really what him doing. So him [the father] put him inside and just stop to put some clothes on the line,” Bright told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.
Both Bright — who was also upstairs, in a room separated by a bathroom from where the explosion was heard — and the frightened father dashed towards the source of the explosion.
They saw the boy lying on the floor in a pool of blood, the firearm nearby.
The child’s father collapsed.
“When I heard the explosion I thought it was outside,” Bright said. “I opened the door and started to rush to come downstairs and I saw the father run upstairs and dashed into the room and bawled out. And then I started to bawl out too. When the father went into the room and saw… he couldn’t take it, he fainted at the time. He dropped on the ground,” Bright said, his voice cracking.
The explosion caused several community members to rush to the house, and both father and child were rushed to Falmouth Public General Hospital where the son was pronounced dead and his father treated for trauma-related symptoms.
Yesterday, when the Observer visited, the child’s parents were not at home, but the grief-stricken Bright described young Malique as a promising student who was the darling of the community.
“He is the life of the church, he’s the life of the little community here, and at school, he is the life of the school. He doesn’t really sit down in class, but at the end of it he can tell you everything that goes on in the class. When he comes home, he can tell you everything. It is like he has a computer brain. Like tablets and iPhones [are] his thing. If you put down the phone and he gets the chance, he can go in it and find anything he likes.
“I wonder how because when he goes to school he doesn’t sit in class; but when he returns and you hear him recite some poems …. he can count from one to 20 in Spanish. He is a lover of the directory and he looks through the directory and no matter how big the word is he breaks it down in syllables and pronounces it. He is a brilliant child. He is well-loved,” Bright said as he fought unsuccessfully to choke back the tears.
The little boy is surmised to have climbed on a chair to access the firearm where it was placed.
“Nobody is coping,” wailed Bright.
“He is a child, he is autistic and him have a relationship with everybody. Everybody love him… all his aunties, uncles and cousins and friends, and everybody. Everybody …”