A young girl was shot to death during a family gathering in Leeds Sunday night.
The Jefferson County Coroner’s Office on Monday identified the victim as Kayla Mendenhall. She was 12.
The shooting happened at 8:16 p.m. at a home in the 4100 block of Oak Trail Way. Authorities said Kayla and an adult family member were playing around and wrestling. The adult family member, whose name and relationship hasn’t yet been released – was wearing a gun and that gun discharged.
Kayla was struck in the upper leg. She was taken to Children’s of Alabama, where she was pronounced dead at 9:26 p.m.
Leeds Police Chief Ron Reaves said the investigation is ongoing and no charges have been filed at this time.
Kayla was in the 6th grade at Leeds Middle School. Superintendent John Moore said she was a wonderful student who played trombone in the school band. “She had never been in trouble day of her life in school,” Moore said. “She was a wonderful student, always had a smile. She was just clearly a ray of sunshine.”
Moore said he visited the middle school Monday morning where students had just learned of their classmate’s death. “This is a tragedy that no teacher, no school wants to face,” Moore said.
All of the counselors in the school district responded to the middle school. Students are being allowed to talk with the counselors, call their parents and talk with friends. “She had so many friends,” Moore said. “The kids are just heartbroken. They’re so heartbroken.”
“As far as we know, it was accidental but that doesn’t change the outcome,” he said. “The kids just miss their friend.”
Kayla was a “very sweet spirit” who had lots of friend and was full of life and energy, said vice-principal Wesley Graham. “She was the kind of girl you want your kid to grow up to be.”
Graham said the child’s mother came to the school today to retrieve Kayla’s things. “That’s where it hit home for us.”
A GoFundMe account has been established to help the family with her funeral costs.
Leeds businesses have called the school asking to donate food to the family, Graham said.
“Today was a very somber day,” Graham said. “It just shows how hopeful I feel about our community.”