A Nevada father shot and killed his 14-year-old son because he would “rather have a dead son than a gay son,” according to the son’s former foster mom.
On Thursday afternoon, 53-year-old Wendell Melton shot his son, Giovanni Melton, in the apartment where Giovanni lived alone. According to Sonja Jones, Giovanni’s former foster mom, Wendell caught Giovanni with his boyfriend before he pulled out a gun.
The Henderson Police Department said Giovanni was initially transported to St. Rose Dominican Hospital—Siena Campus in critical condition.
“As a result of their investigation, Henderson Police detectives determined that Melton discharged a firearm that fatally struck his son,” the police department said in a statement on Facebook. He was arrested at the scene on felony charges of open murder, child abuse, firearms possession and other various charges, and was booked into the Henderson Detention Center.
According to a police report and criminal records obtained by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Wendell was a convicted felon due to domestic battery and was prohibited from possessing firearms. He told the dispatcher he shot his son after an argument about his son’s truancy escalated and turned physical. He said when he got up, the gun he had pointed at his son’s chest “accidentally went off.”
But Jones and other close to Giovanni tell a different story.
“Giovanni was abused physically and mentally and spiritually for many, many years,” Jones told News 3 Las Vegas.
Jones said other family members told her the argument that led to Giovanni’s death was over Giovanni’s sexual orientation. She said Wendell had threatened Giovanni before.
“He hated the fact that his son was gay,” Jones said. “I’m sure that inside of his mind, he would rather have a dead son than a gay son.”
The Henderson Police Department said Wendell was arrested at the scene on felony charges of open murder, child abuse, firearms possession and other various charges. He was “booked into the Henderson Detention Center.”
The Henderson Police Department was not immediately available to comment on Jones’s allegations, but KSNV 3 reported that Wendell, a United Airlines employee and former pilot, will appear in court to face his charges this week.
‘Jaime Grant, executive director of PFLAG National, an LGBTQ family and ally organization, told NBC News that Giovanni’s death is “part of [a] broader societal issue.”
“We have a crisis of masculinity in this country—it’s obvious across the board in this report and in the unrelenting reports on sexual assault and also gun violence,” Grant said in a statement provided to NBC News. “Many ‘normative’ messages men learn as they are growing up about stuffing their feelings, policing other men’s gender and sexuality, asserting ‘dominance’ from the boardroom to the bedroom, also show up in their lives as fathers.”
Giovanni is remembered as an energetic friend who “brought smiles to everyone he met.”
Coronado High School senior Bailey Schultz, who went to school with Melton, told the local NBC News station that “he was young and he had a lot to live for.”
“I hope they throw the book at him. I hope he never sees the light of day,” Jones said. “I hope every day when he looks in the mirror, he sees his son’s face.”