The officer held up the .22-caliber casing between his thumb and index finger. The bullet it held had been lodged in his abdomen more than four decades prior.
“This almost killed me,” Jason Cunningham said, holding it up for others to see.
Cunningham was 4 when he got access to his dad’s revolver. It was about 12:30 a.m., and his dad and brother were sleeping. He stood in front of a TV and tried to fire the gun like the people on TV did, he recalled.
His other fingers not yet strong enough to pull the trigger, so Cunningham pointed the gun at himself, pulled with his thumbs and fired.
It’s a story he’s told before and generally feels comfortable discussing.
But the story of Darchel and Jacob Mohler, sitting across from him Thursday, is harder to tell.
Cunningham was one of the first officers to respond when their 13-year-old daughter, Brooklynn, was fatally shot in 2013 by her best friend, who had access to an unsecured, loaded gun. It took a couple of years for Cunningham to reconnect with the Mohlers. It was too painful a memory to revisit.
“Even to this day, it still hurts,” Cunningham said.
The Mohlers and Cunningham gathered Thursday at Metropolitan Police Department headquarters to share a simple reminder that could mean the difference between life and death: Lock up your guns.
It’s not a political message, Jacob Mohler said, but one of common sense. It’s particularly relevant with winter break coming up for Clark County students, Metro spokesman Jay Rivera said.
“I don’t care what you own. Just keep it out of the hands of kids,” Jacob Mohler said.
Brooklynn was a competitive gymnast and straight-A student who would do the dishes without asking or bring home stray animals to find them a place to live, her mother said. She wanted to be a teacher.
“I would have loved to see her grow up and see what she would have accomplished, because she was that amazing,” Darchel Mohler said.
The Mohlers don’t like to call her death an accident, because it could’ve been avoided.
“It’s too preventable to be acceptable,” Jacob Mohler said.
More than 40 years after Cunningham shot himself, people continue to suffer injuries or death because children get access to unsecured guns. There have been three “incidents” where children got their hands on a gun this year, Rivera said.
“It honestly boggles my mind that it’s still happening,” Cunningham said.
As the three see it, protecting your child’s life is well worth the price of a gun safe. Technology today can allow a homeowner quick access to their firearm while keeping it secured, Jacob Mohler said.
And the Mohlers will mail free gun locks to those without the means to afford one on their own, Darchel Mohler said.
Leaving a gun high up doesn’t suffice, nor does assuming that one’s child knows better than to grab a firearm, Jacob Mohler said.
“If you tell me your child has never done anything they are told not to do, does everything they’re told to do, then you’re a liar, and you’re highly underestimating your child’s curiosity and ability,” he warned.
Brooklynn’s death has forever changed the Mohlers’ lives, they said. Her surviving siblings miss her terribly and “live to honor her,” Darchel Mohler said.
The couple know they can’t bring their daughter back, she said, but they hope they can promote a message of safety and prevent other families from experiencing what they live with every day.
“It’s exhausting,” Jacob Mohler said. “It’s not something we want to do. It’s not something that we necessarily enjoy doing. It’s something we feel compelled to do.”
Free gun locks offered
Darchel Mohler said those looking for a free gun lock can reach out through Facebook, at facebook.com/justiceforbrooklynn. The Mohlers run a foundation in honor of their daughter.
Recent child shootings
On May 30, 2-year-old Messiah Logan died in what police described as an accidental shooting. Authorities have said a 10-year-old boy fired a shot from a 9 mm handgun inside Messiah’s northeast valley home that left Messiah dead. Messiah’s father, Michael Logan, pleaded guilty this summer to charges of child abuse and ownership of a gun by a prohibited person.
In October, a 2-year-old boy shot his 4-year-old brother with an unattended gun. The father, Daniel Adam-Jones, was arrested on child abuse-related charges.
In November, a 3-year-old North Las Vegas boy was critically injured in what police described as a possible self-inflicted gunshot wound.