Crime

‘Momma, I just killed him.’ Police say a body camera caught teen’s confession

Albert Deonta Craft III, 16, has been identified as the shooter of 6-year-old Zaylan Sparkman, Friday, Aug 4, 2017. Craft is Sparkman's brother. Saturday, Sabine Street in Gulfport was quiet as the family mourned the loss of one son and the arrest of the other.
Albert Deonta Craft III, 16, has been identified as the shooter of 6-year-old Zaylan Sparkman, Friday, Aug 4, 2017. Craft is Sparkman's brother. Saturday, Sabine Street in Gulfport was quiet as the family mourned the loss of one son and the arrest of the other. ttisbell@sunherald.com

A 16-year-old told police he pulled the trigger on a handgun because he was trying to scare his 6-year-old brother, who died Friday evening after being shot in the abdomen.

Albert Deonta Craft III has been charged with manslaughter in the case.

A sworn statement filed in Harrison County Justice Court outlines what Craft and a neighbor say happened before and after the shooting in the family’s home on Sabine Street. The statement also says a police officer’s body camera recorded Craft admitting that he shot his little brother.

Craft said Zaylan was sitting atop the washing machine, playing games on a phone. Craft said he pointed a .38-caliber handgun at Zaylan to scare him. Craft knew the gun had two bullets in it, he said, but he did not think they were near the hammer.

He pulled the trigger once. The gun didn’t fire, the statement says. The second time Craft pulled the trigger, the gun fired a bullet into Zaylan’s stomach.

The teenager walked to a neighbor’s house with Zaylan in his arms, asking for help, the neighbor told police. Craft wanted the neighbor to take them to the hospital, the neighbor said. Instead, the neighbor called 911 and Craft returned with Zaylan to the family’s house to await an ambulance.

“As officers arrived, they encountered Craft and heard him say that he had just killed his brother,” the court record says. “This statement was captured on an officer’s body camera.

“A second officer’s body camera captured Craft telling his mother, ‘Momma, I just killed him.’”

Zaylan was nonresponsive when police arrived. He was later pronounced dead at the hospital.

In a search, police said they found the handgun and blood in the house. They also found one live round and one spent casing in the handgun, the statement says, backing up Craft’s account of what happened.

Police say Craft illegally obtained the handgun, but have offered no details about how.

Rev. Eddie Hartwell was meeting with the family Monday night to plan Zaylan’s funeral. The little boy was about to enter first grade. He attended St. James Baptist Church, where Hartwell is pastor, with his paternal grandmother.

“He was just a happy little boy,” Hartwell said. “He enjoyed coming to church.”

Hartwell said he last saw Zaylan on Thursday night during a review at the end of vacation Bible school.

The teacher asked the group what God wanted Mary and Joseph to name baby Jesus.

Zaylan spoke up: “Emmanuel.”

The teacher asked what the word meant.

Zaylan said: “God is with us.”

Hartwell said, “That’s the last words I remember him saying. Less than 24 hours later, we got the call of the tragedy.”

Hartwell, also the owner of Hartwell’s Christian Mortuary and Funeral Home, will have the sad task of seeing that Zaylan is laid to rest.

Staff writer Robin Fitzgerald contributed to this report.

Anita Lee: 228-896-2331, @calee99

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