Everyone in a Milwaukee County courtroom Wednesday appeared convinced that Raheem Moore loved 3-year-old A’kai Stilo and was good to him.
But that’s only maybe half or three-quarters of the responsibility a father figure has for a child, Judge Mark Sanders said.
“The rest of it is keeping a kid safe,” he said. “And you didn’t live up to that.”
Five months later A’kai found a gun in the middle of the night and shot himself while Moore, 29, was asleep, Moore on Wednesday received a 20-year sentence, split into 10 years of confinement in prison and 10 years of extended supervision.
His stay in custody will extend further than that though. Moore was previously convicted of a homicide committed when he was 15, and was still on extended supervision from that case and barred from possessing guns when A’kai died. He will spend an additional six years in custody as a result of violating the terms of his supervision.
Moore pleaded guilty to neglecting a child, causing death, and one count of possession of a gun by a habitual criminal repeater.
Sanders called the entire episode “a remarkably sad experience.”
Akai died in the early morning of July 1 at his home along the 1100 block of North 20th Street, on Milwaukee’s west side, where he lived with a 9-year-old brother, his mother and her partner, Moore.
The night before the incident, A’kai’s mother said she went to bed around 11 pm and saw a gun lying out in the open behind the television in the living room, according to the criminal complaint. About five hours later, she heard a gunshot and found her son, who was known to roam around the apartment at night, suffering from a gunshot wound to the head.
The mother said Moore was still asleep until she came upon Akai and screamed, according to the complaint. She said Moore provided aid to Akai before fleeing the apartment, the complaint said.
Police eventually found three empty gun lockboxes and ammunition in the apartment. In the basement, officers located a red duffel bag belonging to Moore, which contained three handguns and marijuana inside, the complaint said.
At Wednesday’s hearing, Moore had the support of many friends and family, with almost 20 of them appearing in the courtroom gallery. A’kai’s mother wrote a letter to Sanders asking him for leniency.
She said Moore was a dedicated family man who still has the potential to be an “outstanding father.” She called the incident “a horrific accident.”
But Assistant District Attorney Matthew Torbenson said he had an issue with her use of the word “accident,” because A’kai’s death was “wholly preventable.” He said Moore hadn’t taken any steps to keep A’kai and other children away from the guns in the house. They were loaded, unlocked and easily within reach.
Torbenson also indicated that an investigation that could implicate the mother was still ongoing.
When the time came for Moore to speak, he quickly became emotional and said, “I’m sorry for what happened to A’kai.”
In 2008, at the age of 15, he was charged as an adult with second-degree reckless homicide, in a case where prosecutors accused him of shooting and killing a man during a robbery. Moore eventually pleaded guilty to the charge, but appealed the conviction to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, arguing that his confession to the police was involuntary.
The court ultimately upheld the conviction. Moore was imprisoned until being placed on extended supervision in September 2019, according to court records.
Where to find free gun locks
The Milwaukee Police Department encourages residents to keep firearms out of the reach of children and equipped with a gun lock.
How to safely store guns
According to the American Academy of Pediatricsroughly a third of US homes with children have guns, and even young toddlers are capable of finding unlocked guns and are strong enough to pull the trigger.
In homes with guns, the likelihood of an accidental death by a gun is four times higher. The most effective way to prevent unintentional shootings is the absence of guns in homes.
But for those who do have them, the academy recommends guns be locked away and ammunition locked and stored separately. Children and teenagers should not be able to unlock the boxes that store firearms and guns that are loaded and unlocked should not be stored in a car or anywhere else on your property.
The academy recommends guns be unloaded any time they are set down.
Contact Elliot Hughes at firstname.lastname@example.org or 414-704-8958. Follow him on Twitter @elliothughes12.
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This article originally appeared on the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Milwaukee man gets 10-year sentence in death of 3-year-old A’kai Stilo