‘That boy was still a baby to me’: Hamilton shooting victim remembered as talented athlete

When Wallace Morris heard one of his youth football players, an 8-year-old, had been accidentally shot and killed, he didn’t believe the news.

“Then it became a reality,” said the president of Hamilton Saints. “Life can be cut short. That boy was still a baby to me.”

Chance Carlo Amir Gilbert, a third-grader at Riverview Elementary School in Hamilton, was accidentally shot by a 9-year-old on May 17 when a group of kids were playing with a gun in an apartment on Hawaiian Terrace in Cincinnati’s Mt. Airy neighborhood, according to Cincinnati Chief Eliot Isaac.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said Chance was shot by another kid with a gun that was left there by an adult. Deters said he “firmly” believes the shooter didn’t know the gun was loaded.

Both children had guns, Deters said. Chance had a BB gun and it’s unclear what type of gun the boy who pulled the trigger had, Deters said. There are adults who know whose gun was used and where the gun is located, he said.

“The only one in this whole investigation who has shown courage and who has told the truth is the young boy who shot the other,” Deters said. “I think that’s pathetic.”

While Chance was found dead inside of the apartment, Deters said “there is a real possibility” his body was moved.

Isaac called the shooting a “true tragedy.”

Accidental shootings cause hundreds of deaths per year in the U.S. In 2017, there were 36,383 fatal shootings and 22,279 were suicides, 12,830 were homicides, 496 were police involved shootings and 487 were accidental.

During that same year in Ohio, there were 1,589 gun deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of those, 918 were suicides, 621 homicides, 21 by police, 19 accidental and 10 unclassified.

The Rev. Alvin Scales, with the Cincinnati Police God Squad, said adults need to understand the importance of securing their firearms and keeping them away from children.

“Guns and kids do not mix,” he said. “It’s always a bad combination.”

Chance, who died two weeks shy of his ninth birthday, had his visitation Wednesday at House of Deliverance and his burial in Greenwood Cemetery.

“His parents should have been planning his (birthday) party,” Morris said. “Instead, they were attending his funeral.”

Morris said several of Chance’s teammates wore their football jerseys to his visitation.

Before this football season begins, Morris said the Hamilton Saints will retire Chance’s No. 8 jersey. Morris called Chance an outstanding kid on and off the football field.

“He was a special player,” Morris said of Chance who played both ways on the third-grade team.

After the regular season, Chance played in a national tournament with the fourth-graders, Morris said.

“A coachable, likeable kid” is how Morris described Chance.

The Hamilton school district released a statement. In part, it said: “Even in his young life, he has left a mark with his vibrant personality and will be sorely missed by our school community.”

This isn’t the first time Morris has dealt with deadly gun violence. His son, Christopher “C.J.” Sandle Jr., was shot to death on Jan. 13, 2016, just three days after his 20th birthday, in his bedroom on Millville Avenue.

“I feel the pain,” Morris said when asked how Chance’s family feels. “It’s difficult. People may say, ‘I know how you feel.’ But they don’t. Not unless you have been there.”

Our news partner WCPO contributed to this report.

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