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Before 12-year-old Artemis Rayford was fatally struck by a stray bullet on Christmas morning while playing with his new presents, he had written a letter to Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee about gun violence.
Rayford, who had been in the Memphis Police Department’s Gang Resistance Education and Training Program, addressed a new state law that would allow people to carry a weapon without a permit.
In a tragic twist of fate, Rayford lost his own life to gun violence on Christmas Day.
He had been playing a new video game he got for Christmas when a bullet tore through the Memphis house he shared with his mother and 6-year-old sister and struck him in the chest, The Washington Post reports.
Rayford died in his mother’s arms.
“When he got shot, the only thing he could do was run to his mama,” his grandmother Joyce Newson told WREG. “It took her two days to wash the blood off her hands.”
His younger sister is still “having a hard time” after watching her older brother die in front of her.
After his death, his teacher sent a copy of the letter he had written to Lee to the family.
“I read this letter two or three times,” Newson said.
She told The Post she had yet to be contacted by Lee and it's unclear whether he ever received the letter before the fatal shooting.
Newson described her slain grandson, who the family called “Shun,” as someone who “made the party.”
The last time she saw her grandson was on Christmas Eve after the family had gathered in pajamas to celebrate the holiday.
“It didn’t dawn on me that it would be my last time seeing him,” she told The Post.
Memphis Police Sgt. Louis C. Brownlee told Oxygen.com that detectives were still investigating the “senseless act of violence.”
Investigators also released a photo of the vehicle driven by the suspect or suspects, who police said "targeted" the home with gunfire, describing it as a possible newer model Dodge Durango.
"No arrest has been made," police said, calling it an "ongoing investigation."
Newson is now hoping her grandson’s letter—and tragic death—will help spread his message about gun violence.
“A lot of people thinking that, ‘I got a gun in my house. I’m safe.’ But that’s not the case. Because most of the time with them, who’s the one getting hurt? It’s the innocent one,” she said.
Anyone with information about the shooting is urged to contact the Memphis Police.
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