Last week, 3-year-old Devin Page Jr. of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was asleep in bed when a stray bullet struck and killed him, according to multiple reports. NBA legend and basketball Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal reached out with the assistance of local activists and offered to pay for Page’s funeral.
Police believe a gunfight broke out between two people in front of Page’s home on Fairfields Avenue, and one of the bullets went through the toddler’s bedroom window. No arrests have been made, and the investigation is still ongoing.
Devin had just started preschool and loved playing with his siblings, according to his family. He and his family were robbed of hope of the future with his death.
“Until it happens to you, until the gun is shot at your house, you know, until the bullets come through your window, you don’t get involved. You have nothing to say,” his grandmother, Cathy Toliver, said to KSLA. “But you don’t want this feeling that we have right now. You don’t want the feeling of knowing that you’ll never see your grandbaby or your son again. You don’t want that feeling.”
Shaq, who attended Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, is partnering with Greater Beulah Baptist Church to cover the costs of the funeral service.
This act of kindness are not unique from the hoops legend. He is known to randomly give to those in need whenever he’s moved to do so.
“I’m so sorry for your loss. Me and a pastor friend are going to take care of everything,” O’Neal said over FaceTime footage obtained by WBRZ. “I’m so sorry.”
The family attempted to leave the home after several nights of hearing gunfire. But the cost of moving was something the family couldn’t afford according to reports.
“I try to stick it out. Now that I stick it out, this is the outcome of what happened. My son got killed,” Devin’s mother Tye Toliver said.
A study published in JAMA Pediatrics found 62 percent of the more than 67,000 firearm-related deaths that occurred among youth between the ages of 5 and 24 from 2007 to 2016 occurred in counties where the percentage of residents who lived below the federal poverty level was 15 percent or greater.
Baton Rouge has a 26 percent poverty rate. That’s higher than the rate across the state which is 19.6 percent.
The rate of gun-related deaths was more than four times higher among young people living in counties with the highest concentrated poverty than with youth living in counties with the lowest concentration of poverty. The study defined counties with the highest poverty level as those where at least 20 percent of the population earned below the federal poverty threshold, and those with the lowest concentration of poverty as those where 5 percent or fewer of residents lived below the federal poverty level.
According to Gun Violence Archive, so far in 2022 12,642 people have been killed as a result of gun violence. Some 88 of them have been children between the ages of 0-11.
A memorial balloon release was held in Page’s honor at Morning Star Full Gospel Baptist Church in Baton Rouge last Saturday.