(WMC-TV) - A mistake by a big brother that almost cost his little sister's life shook a Mid-South family to its core. Now, the family considers themselves "the lucky ones", and encourages other parents to rethink home safety.
"The doctors had said that a couple of inches higher and she would have been cut in two, just a couple of inches higher, and that would have been it," said grandmother Elaine Johnson.
In July 2009, 4-year-old Cathereen Taper and her big brother broke into his parents' locked bedroom and picked up an unlocked shotgun – out of boredom.
"Once I got that last shell, and cocked the gun it, pow, when that gun went off," said Martavious Webb, who shot his little sister.
Memphis police said he was playing with a shotgun and shot her in the leg.
As Taneka Taper and her husband, Michael, rushed to save one child they launched a search for the other.
Martavious ran away after the accident, scared of the repercussions. He was already on house arrest because he had gotten in trouble a few months prior.
His family turned to Action News 5 for help.
"Don't make a bad situation worse, son. Listen to your Grandma Laine. Come on home and talk to me, you know my number," said Johnson pleading for his return in 2009.
Elaine turned to the power of prayer.
"Seemed like all the power that maybe I had as a strong grandmother, a strong mother, had left me. There wasn't anything that I could do but pray," said Elaine.
Those prayers worked. Despite writing a suicide note, Martavious eventually returned home.
After multiple operations and more than one month in a hospital, his little sister is left with only a limp.
"It's hard to recover from that. You shoot a younger sibling, and you witnessed it with your eyes, your bones," said Martavious. "You see it's different from seeing it on a video game, but actually witnessing it and seeing her look at you."
Tennessee outpaces much larger states when it comes to accidental shooting deaths. It is sixth in the nation according to the Centers for Disease Control.
The Taper family knows how fortunate they are. Their daughter, Cathereen, survived.
Martavious is on the right track after some time in Youth Villages.
"Everybody make mistakes. Nobody going to look down on him. We didn't chastise him. We brought him in with love," said his father, Michael. "I didn't want to lose two. You know, so by the grace of God, both of them are living and are healthy and doing a whole lot better today."
Martavious was charged with aggravated assault in his sister's shooting.
"No matter what stumbling blocks life throw at you, keep on moving. Keep on moving," added Martavious.
His mother has a message for other parents with guns in the home.
"Keep them locked up. Keep it locked up. I mean we got teenagers, and I got a lock on my bedroom door," said Taneka. "We keep a lock on our bedroom door to keep them out of any harm."
This family is hoping their story provides both a life lesson and hope for others.
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