Father of 10-year-old girl who accidentally shot herself fatally pushes gun buyback programs

by Michael D’onofrio, Philadelphia Tribune Staff Writer

 

Shanyiah Gaines-Miles had a plan, recalled her father.

The 10-year-old was resolute about attending college, becoming a baker, and visiting Texas.

Instead, the girl found a .38 revolver, which was spray-painted gray, in an upstairs bedroom of her Kingsessing home and accidentally shot and killed herself July 1.  

“She thought it was a toy gun,” said Warren Miles, Shanyiah’s father. “There was a loaded gun in the house. Nobody knew about it.”
 
Tyree Miles, who is Warren Miles’ brother, allegedly left the handgun in a bedroom. He was charged with involuntary manslaughter, possessing a firearm that he was not legally allowed to possess, and other charges, according to court documents.

 

Warren Miles said his brother had “no remorse whatsoever” for Shanyiah’s death.

“It was definitely a hurt piece because he was more worried about going to jail and more worrying about where he was at than worrying about the fact he left a loaded gun inside the home when there were children there,” Miles said. “He knew they were there.”

Now Warren Miles is calling on people to secure any  firearms in their homes in order to prevent accidental shootings. He said his goal is to create a nonprofit — Protect Our Kids, or POK — to push that message and encourage families to communicate more.

On Wednesday, Warren Miles joined city and congressional legislators, medical professionals and others at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children to highlight a gun buyback this weekend at two Black churches.

Individuals will receive a $100 gift card to Brown’s ShopRites with each turned in working handguns or semi-automatic firearms.

While Council President Darrell Clarke acknowledged gun buybacks wouldn’t solve the city’s gun epidemic, he called them a “piece of the puzzle” for getting weapons off the street.

Philadelphia recorded 297 homicides on Wednesday, jumping 34% compared to the same time last year, according to the police department’s online database. Killings this year were on track to reach an all-time high: Since 1960, the highest recorded homicide rate in the city was 500 in 1990.

 
African-American Philadelphians are disproportionately the victims of homicides and shootings.

So far this year, 108 children have been shooting victims, of which 21 were fatal, according to data from City Council.

Donald Mueller, the chief executive officer at St. Christopher’s, said the hospital has treated two dozen children who were victims of gun violence this year.

“Today teenagers are being disproportionately impacted directly and indirectly by the surge in gun violence, Mueller said.

Dr. Grier Arthur, a pediatric surgeon at the hospital, said gun violence victims said between three to six children die annually at the hospital from gunshot wounds.

“I have had to tell far too many parents that their son or daughter has died as the result of a gunshot wound injury,” Arthur said.

Warren Miles said the surge of gun violence in his Southwest Philadelphia community was severing the traditional lines of communications between neighbors. 

“People are scared and they’re not communicating because they’re afraid to,” he said. “That’s the ripple effect and most people are afraid to speak up.”

Warren Miles wears a necklace with a pendant bearing the image of his deceased daughter. The back of the pendant reads: “I’ll always be here with you, Daddy.”

Gun buyback

Philadelphia City Council and partners, including the Father’s Day Rally Committee and Mothers In Charge, will hold gun buybacks on Saturday between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. at: Mt. Enon Baptist Church at 500 Snyder Ave. and Upper Room Baptist Church, 7236 Ogontz Ave.

 
mdonofrio@phillytrib.com

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