Great-grandmother murdered by stray bullet, 2 others injured in horrific Thanksgiving Day shooting: Police

News & Politics

A 19-year-old man in Florida is under arrest after he allegedly shot and killed a beloved great-grandmother and wounded two other victims who survived their injuries, police say.

On Thanksgiving Day, Lonnie Bee Smalls III, 19, allegedly walked up to a vehicle parked at an intersection in East Stuart — a small incorporated municipality along the eastern coast of Florida, not far from Port St. Lucie — and fired multiple rounds. Investigators with the Stuart Police Department said that there were three occupants in the vehicle: a man and a woman, whom police described as “a couple,” and a third person, whose sex is unknown. Both the man and the woman sustained injuries from the shooting, while the third person managed to escape the shooting unscathed. The extent of the injuries suffered by the couple is unknown, but both parties are said to be recovering. Any prior relationship between Smalls and the victims remains unknown.

In addition to the vehicle occupants, the shooting left a fourth victim as well, an innocent bystander who tragically died from her injuries. A stray bullet from Smalls’ handgun allegedly ricocheted into the home of Mattie Lou Jones, a 73- or 74-year-old great-grandmother who had just settled into a living room chair to watch TV and enjoy Thanksgiving dinner with her son. The bullet struck Jones and killed her instantly.

SPD Lt. Michael Gerwan described Jones as just “an innocent person sitting in her living room.” She is not believed to have been the intended target.

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Though Smalls was identified in connection with the shooting within hours and arrested on a probation violation charge shortly afterward, he was not charged with Jones’ murder until last Thursday. He has now been charged with one count of first-degree murder and three counts of first-degree attempted murder for the other victims. He remains in custody without bond. It is unclear when he is next expected to appear in court.

“This arrest brings me some closure, and I hope some closure for the Jones family,” SPD Chief of Police Joseph Tumminelli said in a statement. “The Stuart Police Department is continuing with the investigation, and more information will be available in the future. I would like to thank the public for your patience and understanding in this case. Criminals do not have rules, but law enforcement investigators do. I am optimistic that there will be more to follow.”

Jones, who was retired at the time of her death, left behind a tremendous legacy: eight children, 16 grandchildren, and 22 great-grandchildren. At a memorial vigil held earlier this month, one of her granddaughters stated, “She was always welcoming, she had a big heart and no one could wipe that smile off her face.”

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