Detectives in Florida said Timothy Jamel Hadley, who later died from his injuries, and his friend Anthony Murphy, 15, were watching the 1994 film Menace II Society - about gangs in the Watts area of Los Angeles - at 11pm on New Year's Day. Timothy then apparently decided to play Russian roulette with a stolen .38 Smith and Wesson pistol while his mother, Genelle Hadley, was visiting a neighbour.
Timothy and Anthony, described by police as an often homeless youth from a broken home, may have watched the film because a youth centre they went to on Friday night to play pool had closed down because it could not afford to pay its electricity bill.
They suspect that the boys had stolen the revolver and a powerful 357 magnum automatic pistol in robberies they carried out because they were bored.
Timothy shot himself in the right temple at his home near the Indian river, which separates the working-class Palm Bay neighbourhood from the popular beaches of the Melbourne area.
His friend ran to a nearby house, where Timothy's uncle called the emergency services. The boy was rushed to the Holmes Regional Medical Centre in Melbourne, where he died late on Saturday. Anthony then fled, apparently fearing that he would be blamed for his friend's death, and spent the night terrified in a shed. He later told his story to two cousins, who took him to police.
The police interviewed Murphy, whose mother had died recently and whose father is in jail, but said that he was not a suspect.
"He was terrified," one of his cousins said. "He was in shock. This was his best friend who died." Police said that the boy co-operated with them. "He was very remorseful," said a detective.
"We believe it was Russian roulette because it had all the signs," said George Santiago, a Palm Bay detective. "There had only been one bullet in the chamber and he was shot in the right temple. It looks as though he spun the chamber, put it to his head and happened on the single bullet. We believe it was an accidental death."
Police said that they were studying the film Menace II Society to see if any particular scene may have given Timothy the idea of playing Russian roulette. It shows young people living amid violence and dealing in drugs in Los Angeles' Watts area, scene of serious rioting in the past.
A spokesman for the Light of the Lord Ministries recreation centre, which the two boys had found closed on Friday night, said that it would be renamed after Timothy Hadley when it reopened. Police also said his family had donated his organs for transplant.Reuse content