A pastor in Nashville, Tennessee, is sharing the legacy that she said has been left behind by a 5-year-old boy who was shot and killed on Monday, the day after she baptized him.
Five-year-old LaVonte’e Williams suffered fatal injuries after being shot at Lee Victory Recreation Park in Smyrna on Aug. 15. He later succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced dead at Stonecrest Medical Center in Smyrna.
Bishop Belita McMurry-Fite of Heaven’s View Baptist Church, who had baptized Williams the day before he died, said in an interview with The Christian Post that she will never forget all the memories she had of the boy because he was “a bright light who even at his tender age had served God and others in so many ways.”
“LaVonte’e Williams was a fine young man; always had a beautiful smile on his face, a very loving and respectful child. He would always make certain that he would come to me many times in the church and give me multiple hugs. … He would always make sure to get to me. He was just that type of child. And I really thank God for him,” McMurry-Fite said.
“His family would always say, 'LaVonte’e can’t wait to get to church to see bishop.’ LaVonte’e left a great legacy of love behind. He was loving and kind to everyone. He would not only hug me, he would hug others, shake their hands, and he played very well with other children.”
By observing children's interactions with each other and adults, McMurry-Fite said she and church leaders can assess who the children trust and who they don’t trust as much.
When it came to working with Williams, the bishop said she remembers him having a “trusting and loving personality with everyone he met.” And because of that, she said he left behind “a legacy of trust.”
“LaVonte’e was a child who loved God. He loved working in the church [and] doing things in the church that made him happy. He would sing. He would help take up offerings in the church. He would have times where he would play and where he would intermingle with the children in our church body. He was just a wonderful, well-rounded young man,” McMurry-Fite recalled.
Smyrna Police Department officials are investigating the incident that led to Williams’ death.
Officials confirmed that the shooting occurred at Lee Victory park’s basketball court around 7:20 p.m. on Aug. 15, WKRN reported.
The day after the shooting, police said the boy had discovered a firearm in a backpack. Both the backpack and the gun belonged to the child’s father.
Jim Garbee, a spokesperson for the Town of Smyrna, told News Channel 5 Nashville that some of the child’s family members haven't yet been informed of the boy’s death.
"Based on multiple witness statements and evidence at the scene, at this time it appears to be a tragic accident. However, the investigation is still ongoing,” Garbee said. “The gun believed to be involved was recovered at the scene. Until all family members have been notified no names will be released.”
Those who knew Williams are grieving his loss. Community members have also expressed their condolences.
Mayor Mary Esther of Smyrna expressed her sentiments about the incident in a statement: “The death of a child is inconceivable and our hearts are shattered by this tragedy. The Smyrna community extends prayers of comfort and healing for all involved."
At this time, Williams' relatives are seeking “space and privacy,” according to a local news report.
The child’s mother reportedly posted a message online to inform residents in the community that she and other family members are experiencing some comfort in knowing that her son had been baptized the day before his death.
McMurry-Fite told CP that if it wasn’t for “the grace of God” she wouldn't be able to stand strong amid the grief she is experiencing because of the loss.
She shared that having had the privilege to baptize the boy in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit prior to his passing, is also giving her great peace during this time of immense healing for herself.
“I was very honored to have been able to baptize him. I’m a pastor that doesn’t just baptize children just because children want to get baptized. It’s important to me to know that they know who God is and for them to know why they are doing what they're doing; why do they want to get baptized,” McMurry-Fite shared.
“And I’ve seen LaVonte’e for over a year or more loving God. He comes from a family that
knows God. For me, it was one of the greatest honors of my life to be able to baptize this young man. I heard God’s voice say: ‘It’s OK.’ And I knew that he was ready.”
Before Williams was baptized, McMurry-Fite said she remembers the boy went up to her and said the words: “‘I want to be saved.’”
“I had no question about that. I knew that he was ready. And for me to baptize him was a great joy. I was blessed to lay my hands on him and baptize him. And that was the greatest feeling ever,” McMurry-Fite said.
“I had no idea that he would leave the next day. But I knew that there was something divine that was taking place that day with LaVonte’e.”