DCF responds to the shooting of a 13-year-old
As police continue to investigate what they believe was an accidental shooting death of a 13-year-old girl in a Northside home on Saturday afternoon, Florida's child advocacy agency weighs in on the tragedy.
Titania Mitchell was the oldest of five children in the home on Riverstone Way at the time she was shot. While investigators are trying to determine exactly what happened that led to Mitchell's death, they know no adult was present at the time and a gun was found in the home.
Police have not said who owned the gun or who fired it. The state attorney could still press charges for allowing children access to a gun.
John Harrell, spokesman with the Florida Department of Children and Families, says there is no specific law in Florida that says how old a child should be to be left home alone because maturity varies from child to child.
"You may have an 11-year-old who is more mature than a 13-year-old," Harrell said. "Certainly we hope the parents use common sense. You're going to have problems if you have 5- or 6-year-olds who are left unattended, even for a brief period of time."
Harrell said they also are working to learn more about Mitchell's maturity, and if she'd watched children like this before.
But Harrell says its still too early in their investigation to make any determination about what happened in this home.
"In cases like these, we want to talk to all of the children as well as the parents and talk with people who know the family to get a better idea of how the living situation has been for the children there," Harrell said.
Linda Lacock's two children are grown, but she says when they were young, she made sure to always stay close.
"I never left my kids alone, even when they were 15," Lacock' said. "There should be consequences for it, because kids that age are not mature enough to handle situations like that."
DCF says this tragedy is also a chance to remind parents and adults to be as safe as possible with guns.
Harrell urges people to make sure guns are locked, inaccessible to children or unloaded with ammunition in a separate locked container -- small steps to prevent another tragedy.
Sunday night Duval County School Superintendent Nikolai Vitti issued a statement about the death of Mitchell, a student at LaVilla School of the Arts:
"This is a great loss that we share with the Mitchell family. The incident has weighed on us since we received the news and our continued prayers are directed to the student, family, and community. In an effort to comfort the students and faculty members directly affected by such an enormous tragedy, we have assigned grief counselors and related services to support them. In addition, I requested to delay the start of FCAT testing until Tuesday and the request was approved by the FDOE."
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