Some people might be angry in Flora Burns' situation. Or vengeful. Or distraught.
But after her 9-year-old grandson died in an accidental shooting Tuesday, less than two years after his mother--Burns' daughter--died in a drive-by shooting, Burns was philosophical. "I can't blame anyone," she said.
The 52-year-old mother of eight had been the boy's guardian since he was a baby, she said. On Wednesday, she hunched on her couch, hands clasped, wearing slippers on her feet, a carelessly tied bandana on her hair.
She looked tired and did not always bother to rise when visitors came to the door.
But she was not crying. And if well-wishers dared to cry in her presence, she admonished them brusquely:
"I don't want to hear that boo-hooing," she said. "You keep that crying outside. You want to come in here, be happy."
Burns' grandson, Levante Evans, 9, had been playing with two 9-year-old friends at a house near South Western Avenue and Century Boulevard on Tuesday afternoon when the boys found a loaded gun in the back bedroom.
One of them pointed it at Levante's head and it accidentally discharged, Burns and police said.
The bullet hit Levante in the right eye, Burns said, showing with her hand where the bullet entered.
The boy who had been holding the gun then ran home to his mother, who contacted Burns.
The two women arrived at the scene just as an ambulance was carrying Levante away. He was taken to King-Drew Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. His mother had also died there.
Father of One Boy Is the Owner of the Gun
The boy who accidentally shot the gun was still shaking and crying hours after the fact, Burns said. The gun belonged to the father of one of the boys. The man's name has not been released by police. He was not home at the time of the shooting, police said.
Prosecutors will decide whether to file charges against him. Under a recent state law, owners of firearms can be charged with negligence if they fail to keep weapons secure from children.
Burns, however, reacted with surprise when told the man may face charges.
Although she does not keep guns herself, she said she has no anger. "I mean, it was an accident," she said. "I'm not blaming anyone."
She recounted how the owner of the gun called her early Wednesday to comfort her. He was so upset about the accident, he could barely speak, she said. Burns tried to comfort him.
No one answered the door Wednesday at the home where the shooting took place. Gail Shallowhorn, crime victims coordinator for the Los Angeles city attorney's office, said that long-term counseling will be offered to both boys involved. "They are considered victims," she said.
For Burns, a Mississippi native who took in Levante when most of her children were nearly grown, the shooting was a reprise of her daughter's slaying less than two years ago.
Mardess Brooks was 25 when she became the unintended victim of a drive-by shooting. She was riding in the passenger seat of a relative's car, Burns said.
It takes Burns a moment to calculate the year of this shooting, but she remembers the day without hesitation: "Nov. 22," she said, "the day before Thanksgiving."
Burns said friends and family marveled at her calmness then too. Getting angry is just not her way, she said.
Levante, however, handled his mother's death differently.
Burns had been the chief parent figure in his life--he called her "Mama-Granny," Burns said. But the boy was also close to his mother, and after her death, he got into fights at school.
For a while, "he had a whole lot of angry in him," Burns said.
But Levante's mood had improved recently, and lately he confided in Burns, talking sometimes of his mother, she said. Burns let Levante cry whenever he felt like it, she said.
Burns straightened up on the couch, animated for a moment as she talked about how close they had become. Then she hunched. "I can't be angry. I am just sorry," she said.