The third in a string of tragic child-related accidental shootings in Western Washington since late February resulted in second-degree manslaughter charges being filed this morning in Pierce County Court against 22-year-old Jahnisha McIntosh and 23-year-old Eric Vita. Three-year-old Julio Segura-McIntosh, one of Jahnisha McIntosh's two young children, accidentally shot himself in the head with a 9mm handgun March 14 at a Shell gas station near the Tacoma Mall. The child's death came on the heels of third-grader Amina Kocer-Bowman's serious but non-fatal accidental shooting at the hands of a classmate Feb. 22 in Bremerton, and the March 10 accidental shooting death of 7-year-old Jenna Carlile, the daughter of a Marysville police officer Derek Carlile who was struck by a bullet fired by a sibling from a gun belonging to her father.
A press release from Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist sheds light on how authorities contend the Julio Segura-McIntosh tragedy played out.
From the release:
McIntosh and her boyfriend Vita stopped at a gas station near Tacoma Mall just after midnight on Wednesday, March 14. McIntosh was driving and Vita was a passenger in the minivan. McIntosh's eight-month-old daughter was strapped into a rear-facing car seat in the second row and three-year-old son Julio was in a booster-seat in the third row. The booster-seat buckled using the car's standard seatbelt. Julio was therefore able to release himself.
Vita had a loaded 9mm handgun outfitted with a laser beam sight in his waistband. Before going into the station, he placed the gun under the front passenger seat. Julio unbuckled his seatbelt and came to the front of the van to ask his mother, who was still sitting in the driver's seat, for some candy. As Julio stood there, McIntosh took the gun from under the passenger seat and placed it under her seat. Vita returned to the car and started pumping gas. McIntosh then exited the van to go inside the gas station store for food. Julio was left unrestrained inside the vehicle.
Moments later, a gunshot came from inside the van. Julio was found on the front passenger floorboard with a gunshot wound to his head. Medics transported him to the hospital, where he died. Gunpowder residue on Julio's face and neck and a bullet strike to the windshield suggest that he was standing or kneeling on the front passenger seat, facing the rear of the vehicle, when the gun fired.
The News Tribune reports both McIntosh and Vita turned themselves in Tuesday night expecting charges to be filed today.
Charging documents reveal Vita was pumping gas into his 2004 Chrysler Pacifica at the time of the shooting. The shot entered the boy's head "between and slightly above the eyes," and exited out of the back of his head. Prosecutors say gun powder residue on the boy's face and neck, along with a bullet strike to the vehicle's windshield, suggest Segura-McIntosh was standing or kneeling on the front passenger seat, facing forward, at the time of the tragedy.
Perhaps most troubling, charging documents say police interviewed McIntosh's friends and family, who told authorities Vita made a habit of showing off his handgun to people, specifically its red laser beam sight. Prosecutors also say Vita had shown the handgun to Julio, "flashed around the laser beam sight in front of Julio, and even offered to let Julio hold the handgun before another adult intervened."
Tragically, early on the morning of March 14 there was no adult in the car to intervene.
"Nothing is sadder than the death of a child," Prosecutor Mark Lindquist said through press release, "and when the death is the result of criminal negligence, there needs to be accountability. Guns are inherently dangerous and the law, as well as common sense, requires that guns be handled responsibly, especially around children."
Find the full charging documents below.