CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- This Fourth of July marks five years since 7-year-old Brendon Mackey was killed by celebratory gunfire. The Chesterfield child collapsed while walking with his father to see the fireworks show at Brandermill’s Sunday Park. Police believe a stray bullet someone fired into the air hit him.
“A bullet has somewhere it has to land and there’s nothing more tragic about where this one did,” said, Corporal Detective Johnny Capocelli. “Do I believe this was an intended act to harm somebody? No of course not. The circumstances that brought this together are as tragic as anything. However, whoever is the responsible party, did use a firearm in the commission of this tragic event," he added.
Capocelli is part of the Chesterfield Police Department’s Unsolved Major Investigations Group that has been examining the case for the last several months.
“We’re not going to stop until this is resolved,” said Capocelli. “There have been hundreds of people who have been questioned over the course of the last 5 years. Everyone who has been spoken to has provided little bits and pieces of information some of which people don’t realize is important until later on."
“The investigation to this point has included interviews far beyond the neighborhood of Brandermill.”
July 4, 2013, was a beautiful day which led hundreds to the popular Chesterfield waterfront location.
“People were coming in from all different directions,” said Chesterfield resident Frances Harper Derrer.
Among them, and just feet in front of Frances and her family was 7-year-old Brendon Mackey.
“He was really excited to see the fireworks,” said Brendon’s aunt Kelly Mackey, in an interview with CBS 6 on July 6, 2013.
Brendon Mackey was a name Frances wasn’t familiar with but one she was about to remember for the rest of her life.
“It’s in my head and in my heart every day but around this time of year it always sneaks up a little bit more,” said Frances.
“You are here to celebrate the Fourth of July. You have the unimaginable happen and this is where it happened here,” Capocelli said under a tree at Sunday Park.
Yards from where the Hopkins Elementary rising third-grader was eager to watch the fireworks, he collapsed before ever getting there with his father and aunt by his side.
“I heard like a small pop, but we thought it was fireworks we thought maybe he had just fell,” said Kelly Mackey on July 6, 2013. “When we saw all the blood I just knew.”
“I was right there when we was walking to the fireworks show when he was walking right beside me and when he fell to the ground and was struck in the head,” said Brendon’s father Bryan Mackey, January 15, 2014.
“We just heard this crash type sound,” said Frances. “There was someone right there next to him and said there’s no pulse.”
Frances, a registered nurse, immediately ran over to the Mackey family to help.
“There was blood in several different places,” said Frances. “I took a pulse. There was no pulse. I immediately started CPR compressions.”
"My 9-year-old does remember some of seeing it. She had said mommy why are you pounding on his chest?" Frances recalls through tears.
Brendon later died at the hospital where it was determined he had been struck by celebratory gunfire.
Frances was asked to make the difficult call to Brendon’s mother.
“I just said I did everything that I could but your son took a hard fall,” explained Frances.
Mom Marie Harris expressed her devastation to CBS 6 less than a week after hearing those words.
“My son is gone at 7 years old. He was just a baby. He didn't deserve this at all,” said Mackey’s mother Marie Harris.
While investigators don’t yet know who fired that fatal shot they do know that the weapon used held a .40 caliber bullet or a 10 millimeter round and was shot from far away as 7100 feet.
They also say they are actively getting leads.
“It will be solved no matter how long it takes it’s going to take the community, people who haven’t come forward to come forward and provide more information,” said Capocelli. “Candidly it may require the person that’s actually involved in this to step forward and say hey, I made a mistake this is what happened at no time did I intend to hurt somebody but this is what happened.”
“We’re going to continue to knock on doors, we’re going to continue to monitor the phones, we’re going to do everything we can to make sure the Mackey family and this community knows that we’re not going to stop,” said Capocelli.
Police say you will see an increased police presence in and around the Brandermill community in the coming months as part of the investigation.
It took Frances a year to return to Brandermill's Sunday Park with her two girls and she hasn’t been to a Fourth of July celebration since that 2013 night.
“I needed time away,” she explained. “I needed some peace for myself as well and I went over to the site where it was and I just prayed in closure in knowing that I did what I could do. I wish I could have done more. I wish that he [Brendon] was steps before in front or back something but we can’t go back in time,” she added. “My biggest prayer, to please to everyone who is out there in the community do not shoot guns up in the air to celebrate for July 4.”
Frances says what pains her most is what Brendon Mackey won’t be able to do because of a decision that was made July 4, 2013.
“It was a young boy that lost his life. A young boy who will never finish school, grow up get married nothing,” said Frances. “The person that is responsible knows that they are responsible. I wish the person who shot that gun just comes forward. They owe that to Brendon, they owe that to the family, they owe it to this whole community. I just pray that people stop and think five years ago what happened here.”
One year after Mackey's death, Virginia lawmakers passed “Brendon’s Law," making it illegal to fire a gunshot into the air. If a shot fired into the air injures someone, the shooter could face felony charges.
CBS 6 requested annual July Fourth fireworks and gunfire calls in Chesterfield County for the last five years.
If you have any information in this case you are asked to call Crime Solvers at (804) 748-0660 or use the P3 Tips app. Using either method will allow you to remain anonymous, and, if your tip helps resolve the case, you could receive a cash reward of up to $1,000.
Friends and family of Brendon Mackey have established an additional reward fund for a tip leading to the successful prosecution of this case.
CBS 6 News is working for you. Click here to email a tip to the CBS 6 Problem Solvers. Be sure to leave us your name, phone number and detailed description of the problem. You can also leave a message by calling 804-254-3672.