You are currently viewing 'He had a star quality': Family mourns 12-year-old accidentally shot in north St. Louis – St. Louis Post-Dispatch

'He had a star quality': Family mourns 12-year-old accidentally shot in north St. Louis – St. Louis Post-Dispatch

LaFrance Johnson, 12, (second from right) stands with his siblings and mother at the St. Louis Zoo. Johnson died Tuesday after being accidentally shot by his brother in north St. Louis. (Credit: Victoria Poynter)
Family members of LaFrance Johnson, 12, grieve at the scene where police say he was shot and killed by his 10-year-old brother as they were playing with a gun inside a home in the 5600 block of Summit Place in St. Louis on Tuesday, March 29, 2022.
Photo by David Carson, dcarson@post-dispatch.com
ST. LOUIS — LaFrance Johnson was only 12, but his family saw him going places.
The Rockwood School District sixth grader excelled at track, football and other sports. He checked out thick, complicated books from the library, asked probing questions and received commendations from his teachers for integrity, perseverance and effort, his aunt Arthurine Harris said.
“He had a star quality about him,” Harris said. “He was very charismatic, a natural-born leader.”
LaFrance Johnson, 12, (left) stands with his cousin Elijah Robinson, 9, in this family photo. LaFrance died Tuesday after being accidentally shot by his brother in north St. Louis. (Credit: Victoria Poynter)
LaFrance was killed around 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in the 5600 block of Summit Place in St. Louis when his 10-year-old brother accidentally shot him while playing with a gun.
Authorities later arrested a 36-year-old woman, who owned the weapon, on suspicion of endangering the welfare of a child, police said. Police have not released details about what type of gun was involved or how the children came into possession of the weapon.
LaFrance was the third child to be accidentally shot in recent days. On Friday, police said 12-year-old Paris Harvey accidentally shot her cousin, 14-year-old Kuaron Harvey, before mistakenly shooting herself at a party at South 10th and Spruce streets. Those children died.
Police said Wednesday that they had not identified the owner of the gun in that case and had made no arrests.
LaFrance’s death was a blow to his close-knit family, who Harris said tried to keep the children in a “bubble” to shield them from some of the dangers and difficulties of growing up in St. Louis.
He rode a bus from the city each day to Selvidge Middle School in Ballwin as part of the area’s school desegregation program. The family took extra time to teach LaFrance and his siblings and cousins about Black history, Harris said.
Harris kept copies of books LaFrance wrote and illustrated, and hung his artwork on the walls to encourage creativity. She said the family tried to show their children that they could become anything they wanted in life.
“We wanted them to know they could overcome their circumstances and they didn’t need to be limited,” she said.
Harris called LaFrance’s death a “freak accident” that everyone, including his mother, Katrina Thomas, and four siblings, were grieving.
Harris and Victoria Poynter, a cousin, said they’d miss seeing LaFrance as a “quintessential 12-year-old boy,” sleeping late, making TikTok videos and playing video games. And they’d also lament not seeing him reach his potential.
LaFrance “was going to take our legacy and keep going,” Poynter said. “This house that we’ve had since my grandma struggled for it was still going to be there because of him.”
Poynter said LaFrance was like a brother to her son, 9-year-old Elijah Robinson, who is an only child but has seen multiple people close to him die in recent years.
Poynter said LaFrance taught her son to play football, how to box and how to jump on the trampoline. She said Elijah was heartbroken to experience yet another loss at a young age.
“For kids to be this young and to go through these tragedies at this age, I feel like I have to give my baby extra help,” she said. “He’s taking this hard.”
Harris called on lawmakers to strengthen gun laws to prevent accidental shootings.
“These guns need to be stopped,” she said. “If you aren’t the police or high security you shouldn’t have a gun. It’s reckless.”
At least 58 people — including six children — have been killed in the St. Louis area through March 15, according to the Post-Dispatch’s homicide tracker.
St. Louis officials on Wednesday released information about free gun locks being distributed in an ongoing effort to curb accidental shootings. People can pick up the free locks and learn how to use them at participating fire engine houses, library branches and police stations.
People with questions can call 314-533-3406.
“These recent shootings have devastated our entire city, and we need to take immediate action to protect our children,” Mayor Tishaura O. Jones said in a written statement. “If you have a gun in the house, be a responsible gun owner; store firearms locked and unloaded and pick up a free gun lock to keep your loved ones safe.”
Correction: This story has been corrected to define the relationship between the woman who was arrested and the children.

After a 12-year-old boy who was shot and killed by his brother Tuesday night, the boy’s aunt told officers she was to blame for the his death.
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Katie Kull covers public safety for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She previously wrote about local government for the Springfield News-Leader. In her spare time, you can find her cooking, riding horses or spending time outdoors.
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Below is the St. Louis Post-Dispatch coverage of children who were injured or killed by gunfire across the St. Louis metropolitan area in 2022…
LaFrance Johnson, 12, (second from right) stands with his siblings and mother at the St. Louis Zoo. Johnson died Tuesday after being accidentally shot by his brother in north St. Louis. (Credit: Victoria Poynter)
LaFrance Johnson, 12, (left) stands with his cousin Elijah Robinson, 9, in this family photo. LaFrance died Tuesday after being accidentally shot by his brother in north St. Louis. (Credit: Victoria Poynter)
Family members of LaFrance Johnson, 12, grieve at the scene where police say he was shot and killed by his 10-year-old brother as they were playing with a gun inside a home in the 5600 block of Summit Place in St. Louis on Tuesday, March 29, 2022.
Photo by David Carson, dcarson@post-dispatch.com
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