CHARLESTON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Deven Free, 13, died just over a year after his family said he was struck by a BB gun while playing outside with other boys at a mobile home park.
His aunt, Lisa Shirley, said they hope no other family has to suffer what they’re going through.
“It’s like grieving all over again. We grieved for a year and adapted to our new lifestyle,” said Shirley, referring to Deven being in hospice care for that time frame. “Now, here we are again, adapting to a new lifestyle, and it’s hard.”
Three months after his passing, Shirley told News 8 they still don’t have his death certificate or even the results of the preliminary autopsy.
“We don’t want anyone else to end up like us. We don’t want anyone else to feel what we feel,” Shirley said.
While the family is still waiting for answers, they also want action to help prevent another tragedy.
State Rep. Julie Rogers, D-Kalamazoo, recently introduced a bill, HB 6447, that would restore a state requirement for parents to accompany a minor using or possessing a pneumatic gun, like a BB gun, outside their home or yard.
The penalty was a misdemeanor before HB 4151 repealed it in 2015. If Rogers’s bill passes, it would instead be a civil infraction.
She explained safety and prevention were key factors in framing the legislation.
“I think adult supervision and that adult judgment being present is really what’s critical here. As me and my staff were doing research around this, I think over 90% of the injuries that involved young people with these types of guns or because there was no adult around,” Rogers said. “(It) just demonstrates that these weapons are serious, if you will.”
Shirley says this is a step towards helping tell her nephew’s story, especially if it keeps from someone else’s ending too soon.
“If we could save one person — just one person — Deven’s name would be remembered,” Shirley said. “If they would it even name it Deven’s law, that would be even better.”
Rogers says the bill has yet to be in committee, but it is expected to reach that step later this month.
A spokesman for the Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office, which is overseeing the investigation, says they cannot comment on a juvenile case.