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11-year-old charged in shooting death of 14-year-old friend

Deputies: 11-year-old and his 13-year-old brother tried to cover up shooting

LAKE CITY, Fla. – An 11-year-old Lake City boy has been charged with manslaughter in the shooting death of his 14-year-old friend, the Columbia County Sheriff's Office announced Friday.

Carter Palm is in juvenile detention in Gainesville after his arrest in the death of Jadon Vaughn, deputies said.

According to the Sheriff's Office, Jadon was visiting Wednesday night at the home of Carter and Carter's 13-year-old brother on Anastasia Street near Sandia Way. The adults were out for the evening and the boys were home alone.

Deputies said that around 7 p.m., Carter and Jadon began to play wrestle to see if the family dog would respond to Carter being attacked. After that, Carter got a pistol from his parents' room, took out the magazine and pointed it at Jadon, deputies said.

The gun went off, killing the teen, deputies said.

"It’s one of those things where he had a great Christmas, got everything he wanted, life is going good, and then in a blink of an eye, everything changed," Columbia County Sgt. Murray Smith said.

Deputies said Carter called his father and said Jadon had tried to attack him with a knife. Investigators said Carter and his brother admitted that they put a kitchen knife near Jadon after the shooting, thinking they would be in less trouble.

“This is a tragic and avoidable death,” Sheriff Mark Hunter said in a news release. “Our hearts are broken for both families; one has lost a son and the other will struggle with these events for the rest of their lives.”

In Florida, it's illegal to leave an unsecured firearm within reach of a child. Two handguns were recovered from the parents' room, deputies said. No charges have been filed against Carter's parents, but that is a possibility, Smith said.

"In this area -- it is a very rural area -- it is hard to find a home that does not have a gun and that’s perfectly fine. I mean, that’s their right to have, but the law states you have to secure it if there’s children there that can access it," Smith said. "If you got a child at home, you need to make sure that the weapon is secured."

The State Attorney's Office is reviewing the case to see if anyone will face neglect charges because the boys were left home alone with unsecured guns.

"I want to stress the importance of securing your firearms so a child cannot get to them," Hunter said.

Jadon attended Lake City Middle School. Deputies said the Columbia County School District has been notified of Jadon's death and arrangements have been made to have counselors on hand when classes resume Jan. 8.

A GoFundMe account had raised more than $5,500 by Friday afternoon. Jadon's uncle created the account to help Jadon's family with the unexpected funeral costs.

Jadon's family will lay him to rest Jan. 2 in Lake City.


About the Author:

Brittany Muller

Multi-media journalist with a special interest in Georgia issues.