Shaquille O’Neal is stepping up to help one family during a difficult time. NBC 11 reports the former basketball star is offering to cover the funeral of a 13-year-old who recently shot himself accidentally on Instagram’s live feature.
Shaniqua Stephens had just heard her godson, Malachi Hill take the trash out before she heard the gunshot. The woman and her daughter rushed upstairs to find the 13-year-old lying on the floor in a pool of blood. Stephens recalls:
“I heard a big boom. I couldn’t tell if it was a gun shot or what. I just knew that it was something that was wrong.”
“My daughter screamed and said, ‘Mom turn his phone off!’ As I proceeded to look at his phone he was on Instagram Live.”
The teen was rushed to nearby Grady Hospital where he later died. About 40-50 teens, many of whom were watching the video, arrived at the house shortly after the incident. Some of the teens say Hemphill was told to put the safety on while displaying the firearm on social media, but when he did, the gun went off.
Hemphill’s story made headlines last week and hit home with many teens and their parents when it comes to the part social media plays in so many young people’s lives and the dangers that sometime accompany it. O’Neal, who has been helping families for years in the city of Atlanta where he resides, reached out to the family in their time of need. Stephens expresses how much the help was needed:
“We just broke down and started crying because Malachi didn’t have any insurance.”
“We wasn’t prepared to bury him this young. We didn’t have insurance for him. So to have that from Shaquille O’Neal it was a blessing and very touching, and we appreciate everything he do for the community.”
In a statement O’Neal shared why he felt compelled to help:
“No mother should have to go through this. I can only imagine the pain that she and all of Malachi’s family must be feeling. I just wanted to do what I could to help them at such a terrible time.”
Shantirea Bankston, the teen’s grandmother said that something can be learned from this situation o that no other family has to experience such a tragedy:
“If one person, one or two people would have called his mom and let her know that he was playing with this gun, he may still be here today. That’s the message we are trying to put out there: if you see something, say something. And Maybe Malachi would still be here with his friends dancing and joking around.”
She also has some insight for parents:
“Check your kids’ book bag. Check your kids’ room. Be involved with your kids, too, and see what they are doing and hopefully a good message will come out of this.”
We hope the family is able to find peace at this difficult time and thanks to the kindness of O’Neal are able to focus on celebrating Malachi’s life.