LAKE CITY, Fla. – The death of a 14-year-old boy who was shot the day after Christmas at a friend’s home in Columbia County is being investigated as a homicide, authorities said Thursday.
Deputies were called to a shooting at the home along Anastasia Street near Sandia Way about 7 p.m. Wednesday, according to a spokesperson for the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office.
When they arrived, investigators learned that the teen was shot while visiting with two friends, ages 9 and 11, while the children were left home alone, Sgt. Murray Smith told News4Jax.
Out of respect for the family’s wishes, News4Jax has chosen not to name the shooting victim, whom authorities said attended Lake City Middle School.
Smith said investigators are currently treating the death as a homicide because they do not yet know exactly what unfolded inside the home leading up to the shooting.
“Not that we hope there is any crime or wrongdoing,” he said, “but we owe it to the families to get this right, so we are conducting a very thorough investigation into the death.”
So far, investigators have learned that the teen was friends with both children, who live at the home, the sergeant said. He said the gun, a 9mm semiautomatic firearm, came from the home.
“I don’t know who the actual owner was,” said Smith. “ … But there was a mom and dad in the home, and my understanding is that both had a gun, and both of those guns are in our custody.”
It's unclear if anyone will face charges as a result of the investigation. In Florida, it's illegal to leave an unsecured firearm within reach of a child.
The victim’s mother did not wish to speak on camera. Reached on Thursday, she told News4Jax her son was a lovable boy who lost his father just seven years ago.
Those who live along Anastasia Street in the Eastwood neighborhood said Wednesday’s shooting is uncharacteristic of what is typically a quiet, peaceful community.
Jim Kennedy, who has lived in the neighborhood for seven years, said the family who lives at the home where the shooting took place is renting it out and moved in about a month ago.
"I don't ever even lock my car," Kennedy said. "It's just, I forget to do it sometimes. And I haven't ever locked my house and I have never even had anything stolen or taken."
"Nothing happens in this neighborhood," added neighbor Charles Tedesco. "It's beautiful and if you want a come, there's one right over there. It is a safe neighborhood."
Smith said the Columbia County School District has been notified of the student’s death and arrangements have been made to have counselors on hand when classes resume Jan. 8.