The 2-year-old son of a former Miss Mississippi who witnessed his father being fatally shot while evangelizing in Alabama reportedly told the dying man, “You’ll be OK, dad.”
Ex-pageant queen Christine Kozlowski, 33, had been talking to relatives with her son, Rowan, in the stroller when her husband, bodybuilder Thomas Hand Jr., 37, was gunned down across the street Saturday in Montgomery, the Sun reported.
“He was looking at his dad on the ground shot,” the couple’s friend, Kevin Rayan, said of the toddler being at the grisly scene.
“He said, ‘Oh, you’ll be OK, dad.’ That’s what he told him as he was dead on the pavement.”
Police have charged 17-year-old Jerimiah Walker, of Montgomery, with capital murder in the shooting death.
Hand and Kozlowski, who is pregnant with the couple’s second child, were preaching in the poor neighborhood when the suspect opened fire, according the news outlet.
Rayan said the grieving mom is now “just trying to be strong for the little boy.
“I don’t know how she’s doing it, really. She’s trying to keep strong for her son. It’s a crazy situation,” he told the outlet.
On Wednesday, Hand’s longtime friend Luke Lemus, 48, told The Daily Beast, “I’m kind of heartbroken right now. It’s hard…it’s hard for the family.”
Lemus, who trained with Hand, told the news outlet that his pal “was independently evangelizing door-to-door” after recently moving to Montgomery “to start his new life with his wife and kids.”
In a moving Facebook post, Lemus wrote that “with sadness and a heavy heart, two of my good friends were shot and killed in a weeks time. Senseless murders. Both friends way too young to die.
“First friend was William Mitchell who was shot and killed in Metairie less than a week ago and now Tommy Hand yesterday shot and killed while witnessing and spreading the word of God,” he wrote.
“I know that Tommy just found out that he has another child on the way and that him and his wife just celebrated their anniversary. RIP my brothers until we meet again one day,” Lemus added.
Christine was 19 when she competed in the Miss America pageant for Mississippi in Las Vegas in January 2009 and won the swimsuit competition, the US Sun reported.
At the time, she was reportedly pursuing a master’s degree in nutrition and dietetics at the University of Southern Mississippi.
No motive has been released for Hand’s murder.