4-year-old fatally shot in the head after New Year’s Eve partier’s gun goes off while dancing: Report

A young Texas child died early Friday after being shot by a man who was dancing to celebrate the new year, KXAS-TV reports.

Messiah Taplin, 4, was struck by a bullet in his head around 12:30 a.m. Friday and died about 30 minutes later at a hospital in Arlington, Texas, which is between Fort Worth and Dallas.

Taplin was allegedly shot in the head by Zantyler Foster-Hooks, 21, who was arrested on suspicion of manslaughter, according to the Arlington Police Department.

“We are currently seeking a manslaughter warrant against that individual,” Arlington Police Department spokesperson Tim Ciesco told ABC News.

Police also detained several adults for questioning, according to KXAS-TV.

“Based on evidence gathered, and statements made by the individuals who were inside the apartment at the time, it appears one of the adult males in the apartment was dancing or celebrating with a firearm — and it discharged, striking the 4-year-old boy in the head,” Ciesco told ABC News.

Someone called 911 just after the shooting to report hearing gunfire at an apartment complex in Arlington. When police officers arrived, they found a trail of blood to an unlocked apartment. Officers entered the apartment, but no one was inside, although there was evidence of a crime scene, according to ABC News.

While police were investigating at the scene, a vehicle entered the apartment’s parking lot that was similar to a vehicle seen leaving soon after the shooting. Officers stopped the vehicle and detained those inside.

Authorities were later notified by the hospital that a 4-year-old boy had died from what appeared to be a gunshot wound.

One of the adults at the party initially told investigators that the child was struck by a stray bullet that entered the apartment from the outside. However, that claim did not hold up to the evidence.

“We were able to debunk that story and determine based upon the ballistic evidence at the scene that that round did not enter through the apartment window,” Lt. Christopher Cook told KXAS-TV. “There was damage to that apartment window, but it was previous damage.”

One of the revelers later told authorities that while they were dancing and celebrating, Foster-Hooks had his gun out and that it accidentally fired and struck Taplin’s head.

“Again, another tragic case, certainly preventable,” Cook told the television station.

The relationship between Foster-Hooks and Taplin was not immediately clear, but police said the child lived in the apartment and that his biological mother does not live in the area and was not present during the shooting.

The child’s death was the second fatal shooting in the city in the early morning hours of the new year. Police were notified at 12:25 a.m. of an apparent shooting and officers found a woman with a gunshot wound on a back porch; she was later pronounced dead at the scene. Investigators do not believe the gunshot was self-inflicted, according to ABC News.

Anyone with information about either case is urged to contact Arlington police at 817-274-4444 or Tarrant County Crime Stoppers at 817-469-TIPS.

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