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Playtime turns deadly

The five children were playing together in a bedroom when they found the gun in a box.

You better not play with that, an 8-year-old boy told the others. We should take it to our mothers, he said.

But as he struggled to pull it from the hands of another child, the gun went off.

The bullet tore through the chest of 6-year-old Asia Rose Smith, then ricocheted into the wrist of a 2-year-old boy, injuring him.

The Friday night shooting, which police said was accidental, left the kindergarten pupil dead and her family horrified.

Saturday morning, Asia's mother stood outside her South Emerson Avenue home, where the shooting had occurred hours earlier, clutching a photograph of her daughter.

Rachel Hardy tried to tell reporters about her daughter, but all she could muster was tears.

"They killed my baby," she cried and passed out minutes later. Paramedics were called to the scene and Hardy was revived.

Hardy and Bella Marie Anderson were sitting in the living room when the shooting occurred about 11:30 p.m., a police report said. Hardy's two children, Asia and Tekisha Weldon, 9, were with Anderson's three children, police and relatives said.

One of the children started rummaging through the bedroom closet. He used two chairs to boost his way up to a top shelf, police said.

In a box was a handgun, police said. The boy grabbed it.

Anderson's 8-year-old boy, whom police would not identify, told his brother to turn over the weapon to their mother, police said.

As the 8-year-old reached for the gun, the two struggled and the weapon fired.

"Asia never got a chance to see it," said Asia's grandmother, Ruth Florence. Asia's sister, Tekisha Weldon, told her grandmother what happened.

"She didn't even know she had been shot."

The same bullet hit Anderson's son, 2-year-old Quarrio Gerome King, in the wrist. He was listed in stable condition at Bayfront Medical Center, police said Saturday.

Tekisha Weldon told her grandmother the children were cleaning up toys when the shooting occurred.

"They were cleaning the room and putting the toys back in the box on the shelf," Florence said. "The little boy discovered a gun in his toy box and thought it was a toy gun."

Florence was not mad at the child who pulled the trigger.

"I'm mad because a gun was left on a shelf in a child's toy box," she said. "As hurt as I am, I can't blame that little boy. That was his domain. Any child would play in his toy box."

Police confiscated several guns from the home, but refused to provide details.

Police will investigate the shooting and turn over the findings to Pinellas County prosecutors to determine whether any charges should be filed. None were filed as of Saturday night, police said.

A law that went into effect in October 1990 allows authorities to press charges against a parent or guardian who does not secure a gun.

Gun owners are required to keep loaded weapons in locked containers in locations not easily accessible to children, or secured with trigger locks. The gun safety law was enacted during a special session of the Legislature in response to a series of shootings involving children.

Asia, who lived with her grandparents but was visiting her mother, was a kindergarten pupil at 74th Street Elementary School.

She was sweet, artistic and conscientious, her grandmother said.

"She liked ceramic animals," Florence said. "She would use her money to buy them from the hobby shop. She also had a collection of Cabbage Patch Kids."

Asia had recently written a poem with a crayon picture of herself on one side of a piece of paper, the words on the other.

"I am special. I am special.

If you look, you will see.

Someone very special.

Someone very special.

Yes it's me. Yes it's me."

Teen recovering

from gunshot wound

TAMPA _ A 15-year-old Tampa boy was recovering late Saturday after accidentally shooting himself in the chest while playing with a small-caliber handgun, authorities said.

Nynchoyha Franklin of 407 E Nordica St. accidentally shot himself about 7:50 p.m. Friday, said Tampa police Lt. Nelson Horne. Another youth with Franklin at the time fled before officers arrived.

Franklin was taken to St. Joseph's Hospital in stable condition, Horne said.