The babysitter who was watching three Lake City children last week when an 11-year-old was shot and killed by a 4-year-old handling a gun will face criminal charges.
On May 12, Lake City police were called to the Cedar Park Apartments in the 400 block of Northwest Bascom Norris Drive regarding a report of a firearm discharge.
Responding officers arrived to find that 11-year-old Jarvis Jackson had been shot. Jackson was taken to UF Health Gainesville, where he died two days later as a result of the gunshot wound.
Police said their investigation found that 26-year-old Michael Norman was in the apartment babysitting a group of children while their mother was away. Norman told police he felt the apartment complex -- where he didn't live -- was dangerous, and he brought a Ruger 9mm handgun with him as a precaution.
Norman told police he went to sleep at about 3 a.m. May 12 and that all the children were asleep. According to his statement, the firearm was left on the kitchen table, where it was unsecured, visible and accessible by others in the apartment, including children.
According to statements made by Norman, he awoke at about 8 a.m. to the sound of a gunshot. He rushed to the front room of the apartment, where he saw the 2-year-old girl and 4-year-old girl standing in the living room. He then began checking other children in the room and found Jackson unresponsive.
"He began shaking him trying to wake him up," said Michael Lee, of the Lake City Police Department. "He wouldn't respond and he found blood coming down his neck. He started screaming for help."
Police said they conducted interviews with the other juveniles present in the apartment and were able to determine that the 4-year-old girl awoke to see the 2-year-old girl playing with a handgun. The 4-year-old then joined the 2-year-old handling the firearm. While the 4-year-old was playing with the gun, it discharged and shot Jackson in the neck, police said.
Jessica Queen, 23, a neighbor, also heard the gunshot and called police. According to witness statements, Queen saw Norman flee the apartment screaming for help moments after the gunshot was heard. She also stated that Norman kept repeating, "I'm gonna go to prison for this, I'm gonna go to prison for this."
Crime scene units collected evidence from the scene, including the bullet that shot Jackson, police said. The 4-year-old was also treated for injuries to her face sustained from recoil when the firearm discharged, police said.
During an interview with investigators, Norman said he had purchased the firearm through a hand-to-hand transaction, stating, "I bought it from a guy off of the street in White Springs a few weeks ago." Norman is a convicted felon, making it illegal for him to possess a firearm, police said. They said they also found that the serial number on the firearm was altered.
Based on all available information, police said they formally charged Norman with one count each of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, a second-degree felony, possession of a firearm with altered serial numbers, a first-degree misdemeanor, and aggravated manslaughter, a first-degree felony.
"Our investigators have worked diligently this past week in ensuring to help paint a clear picture of the events that caused this to happen," Chief Argatha Gilmore said. "It is truly a sad time in Lake City that this innocent child has lost his life due to the entire circumstances surrounding the manner in which this child was taken from our community. Our prayers and thoughts continue to be with the family."
The charges are currently filed with the state attorney's office which will decide whether or not to prosecute or alter the charges. If the state attorney's office agrees with the filed charges, a warrant for Norman's arrest would be issued.
"If you've got a firearm in the home for personal protection, personal safety, and you legally own that firearm, then you need to make sure you at least got it secured in a way that children, if they're present in the home, can't pick it up and play with it," Lee said.
"People know the consequences when they do this type of stuff, so some people want to have a gun to look good, some people want to have it to protect themselves, but you know, situations occur," neighbor DeVante Love said.
Norman has two felony arrests in Duval County, in 2005 and 2006, both for drug possession.