JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The family of a 14-year-old arrested Friday and charged with shooting and killing another teen last month said it was a horrible accident and he is very sorry it happened.
Christian Ashley was arrested at Jefferson Davis Middle School and charged with manslaughter and tampering with evidence in connection with the fatal shooting of Henry Atkins, also 14, on Jacksonville's Westside on Sept. 12 -- the day after Hurricane Irma passed through the area.
Police said Ashley and Atkins were among four boys were handling a gun behind an abandoned day care center on Ricker Road when Atkins was shot.
"I’m very sorry for what happened. I know Christian did not mean to do it," said Ashley's mother, who does not want her name used. "I just found out he’s having nightmares, because that’s his friend. He used to sit on our front porch. I used to see him all the time with Christian."
Ashley’s relatives, who asked us not to show their faces, said the boys were hanging out, dancing to rap music and playing with a gun they found when it accidentally went off.
"It was nothing intentional," Ashley’s grandfather said. "It was an accidental death."
"I believe all of them were good boys. They just made a bad decision," Ashley's grandmother said.
Henry Atkins’ family describes their son as a ray of light with a bright future ahead of him. They’re heartbroken. His uncle, Barry Young, said he appreciates the apology from Ashley’s loved ones.
"I just want to say this, there are no winners in this. One child lost his life and another is being tried for taking that life," Young said.
Young also said that while he hopes Ashley is held responsible, he prays the teen gets help and someday a second chance.
Ashley’s grandfather wrote a letter for Henry’s family, telling them Ashley is a good young man who made a terrible decision to play with a gun.
"To be honest, it’s a tragedy that should have never happened. Senseless death," he said.
Ashley‘s family members said they’re going to go to all of his court hearings and support him. They also tell me they’re going to continue to be upfront and honest with both the police and the prosecutors on this tough case.