3-year-old loses eye after being shot with flare gun in Helena-West Helena

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HELENA-WEST HELENA, Ark. -- A 3-year-old Arkansas boy is in a Memphis hospital after being accidentally shot in the face with a flare gun.

Helena-West Helena Police say the accident happened around 4 p.m. Saturday at the family's home on Franklin Street.

Family identified the boy as Eddie Hawkins Jr., and say he is going to survive, but lost his left eye.

Police initially said the toddler was playing with the flare gun when he accidentally shot himself, but his family says it was actually his 15-year-old cousin who pulled the trigger.

“My brother, he was playing with his Nerf gun that he had just got, and my cousin he had had a flare gun and I guess he had forgot that he’d put the bullet in the flare gun and he shot towards his face," said Eddie's 13-year-old sister, Julissa Hawkins.

She says Eddie’s two other sisters, father and grandmother were there when it happened, and that the adults had warned their cousin repeatedly to put the flare gun away, but he didn't listen.

“When my cousin shot it, they tried to stop it, and it already had hit him in the eye," said Eddie's 14-year-old sister, Sierra Hawkins.

Julissa says she was initially angry at her cousin after the accident for ignoring the warnings.

“Why would you shoot the flare gun in the first place? Why would you have the flare gun inside the house? That don’t make sense," she said.
“A flare gun is for emergencies.”

After it happened, Sierra and Julissa said that their cousin tried to cover it up so he wouldn’t get into trouble, telling officers that Eddie had accidentally shot himself.

“Accident or no accident, don’t lie about you didn’t do it. Just tell the truth," Julissa said.

Police say the Department of Human Services were called, but it's unclear if it has opened an investigation.

The girls say their father is devastated and worried about losing custody of his son.

“He was just crying," Sierra said. "He says he’s scared that he’s gonna lose his child.”

Julissa says her little brother will be undergoing surgery to have his eye replaced with a glass eye, and will likely be in the hospital for another two months.

Investigators said Sunday that they’re still trying to get to the truth of what actually happened, because they were given conflicting statements.

Police Chief James Smith also said that charges are expected to be filed in the case.

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