NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — In a classroom where hopes and dreams are created, something, or rather someone, is missing from Opportunity Academy in Antioch. It’s a story we talk about all too often, a young teen turning into the victim of gun violence.
“Just heartbroken. This is really hard, nobody should ever have to deal with this, and nobody should have to tell a group of students that their friend has passed away,” said Lizzie Stewart, Principal at Opportunity Academy.
Stewart described the moment she found out about what happened to one of her students, 13-year-old Abiel Euceda. According to Metro police, Euceda had walked to a friend’s house, where the two were reportedly handling a gun when it went off. Euceda was hit and died on Monday night. Police are investigating whether or not it was an accidental shooting. As of Thursday, no charges have been filed.
“Disbelief, I could not believe it. I doubled checked to make sure we were not talking about the same kid, and the counselor kept trying to tell me, no this is exactly who we’re talking about,” said Wanya Smith, who would often have one on ones with Euceda.
Smith described how he walked through the building when the school counselor broke the news of Euceda’s death. Smith said at that moment, he walked to his car to grieve.
“Just initially there was a lot of shock and sadness, and really trying to figure out what comes next,” said Stewart.
Now, an empty desk sits in the classroom Euceda sat in and left his mark.
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“I haven’t stepped into this classroom since I heard the news, so this is my first time being back in here,” Smith said. “The smile, the jokes, the hair, he was a very bright kid, and I mean when he walks in the room you definitely know that he’s here, he’s going to make himself known.”
Smith says it’s hard to not take it personally.
“When I found out about the news, I felt like I kind of failed him a little bit, like I kind of felt like I was supposed to be there, or I was supposed to,” Smith paused. “It wasn’t supposed to happen.”
It happens more often than you think. Earlier this year, the state released its annual Child Fatality Report. The latest data revealed that 70 children died from a firearm in 2020. It’s the highest number the state has seen since 2017.
The school has created a GoFundMe to help Euceda’s family with funeral arrangements.