JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A 17-year-old Jacksonville girl killed in a shooting in East Arlington Friday was shot by her boyfriend while the two were playing with a handgun, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said.
Elgardo Garcia Jr., 18, has been charged with manslaughter, tampering with evidence, possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Police said he shot and killed Jaylene Cruz while the two were smoking pot and playing with a .40-caliber Glock handgun at the kitchen table of Garcia's family home on Bullfinch Court.
Garcia's parents said they didn't even know their son had a gun. Jaylene lived at their home and they said they feel like they've lost two children.
"It's a phone call that a father does not want to get," said Elgardo Garcia Sr. "Losing my 18-year-old son and my 17-year-old, Jaylene, this is the hardest (thing)."
Lt. Steve Gallaher said detectives learned that Jaylene was playing with the gun, which has a laser sight, and pointing it at the younger Elgardo, who goes by A.J., while he was rolling marijuana. Gallaher said A.J. then picked up the gun, pointed the laser sight at Jaylene and pulled the trigger, shooting her in the face.
Gallaher said that when A.J. realized Jaylene was dead, he ran from the home and threw the gun into the woods. He went to a neighbor's home where he called his father and told him that he'd accidentally shot Jaylene, Gallaher said.
That phone call shattered the elder Garcia's image of his son and Jaylene.
"Lovebirds. They love each other so much that it would put smiles on my face to see them do things that they would do," he said.
When police arrived, Garcia told them what his son had said. Investigators found the gun in the woods. Gallaher said police learned the gun had been stolen from a car in Orlando on Sept. 2. Detectives don't know how A.J. and Jaylene got the gun, Gallaher said. A.J. told investigators he kept the gun under his pillow for protection.
A.J. was taken into custody and initially denied playing with the gun before the shooting, Gallaher said.
After detectives confronted him with Snapchat video and photos of the two playing with the gun before the shooting, A.J. admitted to playing with the gun and was charged with manslaughter, Gallaher said.
Garcia said Jaylene and A.J. met while attending junior high in Orlando, and about two months ago, she moved in with his family in Jacksonville. He admitted both teens had some issues and were trying to find their way.
Police said A.J. was out on bond on charges of shooting at an occupied vehicle in Orlando.
But Garcia said both teens had jobs -- Jaylene at a local Burger King -- and both were scheduled to go back to school in January.
Garcia said he will stand by his son as he faces the charges against him and the loss of Jaylene.
News4Jax reached Jaylene's mother in Orlando by phone Monday. She said she is busy making funeral arrangements for her daughter.