On Sunday (August 27), the Rockwood (TN) Police Department arrested a 25-year-old woman named Breanna Gayle Devall Runions after she shot and killed a 4-year-old girl, Evangeline Gunter, with a 9 mm handgun in the chest at point-blank range. Runions claims she was teaching her about gun safety.
Police charged her with one count of first-degree felony murder and one count of aggravated child abuse and she was transferred to Roane County Jail, where she was being held on a $1.5 million bond. The investigation is ongoing as agents from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation work alongside the police.
According to an arrest warrant, Runions and her girlfriend, Christina Daniels, were punishing the little girl (along with a 7-year-old girl, who was in the room when the shot was fired) for not waking the two adults up and for eating food that belonged to Daniels. The two kids were sent to separate corners of the room.
As part of their punishment, Runions allegedly hit the two children with a sandal before ejecting the magazine from a 9 mm handgun – while the two children and her girlfriend were in the room. Runions told the 4-year-old girl to walk over to her, pointed the gun at the little girl’s chest, and pulled the trigger.
While speaking with the police, Runions’ girlfriend said she didn’t actually see Runions pull the trigger because she had turned away before the shot was fired. The 7-year-old child said glass fragments were sent her way after the bullet hit a nearby glass bottle – the 7-year-old was uninjured in the incident.
Investigators are still trying to figure out why there are inconsistencies in the story told by Runions and the one told by her girlfriend and the 7-year-old. The two witnesses made no mention of Runions teaching the 4-year-old about gun safety. The investigation is ongoing as they attempt to piece together the truth.
After the little girl was shot, Runions and Daniels rushed her to a nearby Walmart parking lot – where they met up with an ambulance that transported her to Roane Medical Center. Roane County Medical Examiner Dr. Thomas Boduch told the local news that the little girl was pronounced dead at the hospital.
Biological Mother and Father Speak Out About Gun Safety
In the days that followed the tragic incident, Evangeline Gunter’s biological parents – Josie Gunter and Adam Gunter – have spoken out in support of gun safety and to remember their little girl. Josie said her daughter was only staying with Runions due to a court decision and was only there for two more months.
“I feel like it’s my fault that I let her be there. I should have been more attentive. I wish I could have been a better mother for her, to pay attention. But it was a court decision in everything that we had done this for and this is what happens,” she explained to 10News – adding that her ‘hugs were so full of life, and love.’
Josie also said that her daughter was destined to be a cheerleader, claiming that she was ‘cheerleading before she could even walk.’ Meanwhile, her father used his platform to speak about gun safety. “Don’t have your guns out. You’re supposed to be gun-smart. Don’t have the gun out,” Adam Gunter said.
On Facebook, the Gunters revealed their plans for a funeral on September 5th, which will be followed by a vigil and birthday party for the little girl – she was due to turn 5 years old on September 5. The party will be held at Riverfront Park in Harriman. Anyone who was touched by her story is welcome to join.