Prosecutors have filed manslaughter charges against the mother of the 3-year-old who accidentally killed himself while playing with a gun and against her boyfriend, the gun's owner.
Second-degree manslaughter charges have been filed against a mother and her boyfriend in connection with the accidental shooting of the woman’s son at a Tacoma gas station this month.
Jahnisha McIntosh and Eric Vita committed a series of negligent acts that allowed McIntosh’s 3-year-old son to access the gun that he used to fatally shoot himself in the head March 14, said Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist.
The boy, Julio Segura-McIntosh, shot himself while he and his 8-month-old sister were in McIntosh’s minivan, which was parked at a Tacoma service station. Neither adult was in the vehicle.
“There are safe ways to store a gun in a car,” Lindquist said Wednesday. “This wasn’t one of them.”
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McIntosh and Vita pleaded not guilty Wednesday in Pierce County Superior Court. Vita’s bail was set at $25,000. McIntosh’s bail was set at $15,000.
When McIntosh, 22, pulled into a gas station near the Tacoma Mall early March 14, Vita, 23, took the loaded 9-mm handgun from his waistband and tucked it under the front passenger seat before he went into the store, according to charging documents.
Julio, who was in a booster seat, unbuckled his seat belt, made his way up to the driver’s seat and asked his mother for candy, prosecutors said. As he stood there, McIntosh took the handgun from under the passenger seat and tucked it under her own seat, according to the charges.
Vita returned to the car and began pumping gas while McIntosh got out of the minivan and went into the store, the charges said.
“Moments later, a gunshot came from inside the van,” according to a news release from the Prosecutor’s Office. “Julio was found on the front passenger floorboard with a gunshot wound to his head.”
If convicted as charged, McIntosh and Vita each face a standard sentence range of 21 to 27 months in prison, Lindquist said.
Vita’s attorney, David Gehrke, told KOMO-TV that his client was being careful and that the shooting would not have happened had McIntosh stayed in the car. Gehrke said he did not think McIntosh should be prosecuted because the loss of her son was punishment enough.
“This was a horrific tragedy,” Gehrke said. “Everybody involved is still shocked … and feels horrible about it.”
Vita has a concealed-weapons permit. He told investigators that he left the handgun in the minivan because the last time he was at a gas station the clerk spotted the handgun in his waistband and police were called, according to charging documents.
The boy’s death was the third accidental shooting of a child within three weeks in the Puget Sound region.
On Feb. 22, Amina Kocer-Bowman, then 8, was critically wounded at an East Bremerton elementary school after a gun in a classmate’s backpack accidentally discharged. A 9-year-old boy told police he had taken the gun from the home of his mother and her boyfriend.
The boy pleaded guilty in Kitsap County Juvenile Court to reckless endangerment, unlawful possession of a firearm and bringing a weapon to school. He was sentenced to probation and counseling.
The boy’s mother and her boyfriend have each been charged with third-degree assault for allegedly allowing the child access to the weapon.
On March 10, Jenna Carlile, 7, the daughter of a Marysville police officer, died after she was shot by her younger brother while they were alone in the family’s parked van in Stanwood. The father, Officer Derek Carlisle, had left a handgun in the vehicle and was standing outside with his wife when the shooting occurred, according to police.
In a statement released Wednesday, Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Roe said the shooting is still under investigation by police.
Snohomish County sheriff’s spokesman Kevin Prentiss said Wednesday that investigators are wrapping up loose ends and finishing interview transcripts, and the case should go to the Prosecutor’s Office within two weeks.
Christine Clarridge: 206-464-8983 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Information from Seattle Times archives and The Associated Press is included in this report.