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Press Release

Lansing Man Charged With Felon In Possession

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Michigan

Two-year-old child died after accidental discharge of gun

          GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN — U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan Mark Totten today announced that Avis Damone Coward has been charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm. The complaint alleges that an accidental discharge of Coward’s gun led to a two-year-old child’s death.

          “Death of child by gunfire is a story that should never be written,” said U.S. Attorney Mark Totten. “Yet beginning in 2022, and for the first time ever, gun violence has become the number one cause of death for kids in America. As this swelling epidemic reaches our most innocent, my office will use every resource available to secure full accountability and prevent future harm.”

          On October 24, 2023, Avis Coward got out of a car at a Lansing gas station and went inside, leaving a two-year-old child and his mother in the car. Surveillance video showed that a minute later, a bullet hole appeared in the car window.  The mother got out of the car holding her child, who had blood on his face from a gunshot wound. As she did so, Coward’s gun fell out of the car. The child later died from his injuries.

          When Coward returned to the car, he picked up the gun and put it back in the car.  A copy of the complaint is attached.







          “This case is a parent’s worst nightmare. It’s heartbreaking and reinforces the importance of responsible gun ownership and safety storage,” said Detroit Field Division Special Agent in Charge James Deir. "A child should never be left alone with a gun. Leaving the gun at home in a secure gun safe or using a safety device, such as a gun lock, prevent tragedies like this. If you need a free gun lock or want additional information on secure firearm storage, contact the ATF Detroit Field Division.”

          “I would like to thank U.S. Attorney Mark Totten and his team for standing firm on gun crime by charging Avis Coward for his role in the shooting death of a two-year-old in Lansing at a gas station in October,” said Lansing Police Chief Ellery Sosebee. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Michigan, Ingham County Prosecutor John Dewane, and the Lansing Police Department stand united in the effort to hold accountable those who commit gun crimes.” 

          This case was investigated by the Lansing Police Department, Michigan State Police, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.

          The case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (“PSN”), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. The Department of Justice reinvigorated PSN in 2017 as part of the Department’s renewed focus on targeting violent criminals, directing all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to work in partnership with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and the local community to develop effective, locally based strategies to reduce violent crime. 

          The charges in a complaint are merely accusations, and a defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law.


Updated November 22, 2023

Project Safe Neighborhoods
Firearms Offenses