A Florida man was arrested Tuesday nearly two months after a toddler found an unsecured, loaded handgun inside a “Paw Patrol” backpack and accidentally shot and killed his mother while she was on a Zoom call with her co-workers.
Veondre Avery, the child’s 22-year-old father, faces charges in connection with the killing of Shamaya Lynn, 21, on Aug. 11 at the couple’s home in Altamonte Springs, Florida, according to the state attorney’s office for Seminole and Brevard counties.
He has been charged with manslaughter and failure to securely store a firearm. Manslaughter, a second-degree felony in Florida, is punishable by up to 15 years in prison, 15 years of probation and a $10,000 fine, according to state law.
“Your decisions have consequences, and this was just a decision that was a very poor one,” Altamonte Springs officer Roberto Ruiz Jr. said in a news conference. “You have a responsibility as a gun owner to take care of those firearms.”
A co-worker on the Aug. 11 Zoom call told the Altamonte Springs Police Department that a toddler could be seen in the background of Lynn’s Orlando-area apartment. Then there was a loud noise. She worked for the shoe company New Balance, which allowed her to work from home and be with her two sons, according to her obituary.
Lynn fell backward and never returned to the call, the co-worker told police.
“I don’t know where to begin,” a female co-worker said in a 911 call later released by police. “One of the girls passed out … She has the camera on. Her baby is crying in the back.” The co-worker added, “We heard a loud kabloom and then she leaned back and we just saw blood from her face.”
When Avery returned home and saw his girlfriend wounded, he pleaded with a 911 dispatcher to “please hurry,” reported The Orlando Sentinel.
“I literally just got home and I come in the room … [and] my girlfriend who was working on the computer, she’s just laid back and there’s blood everywhere,” Avery said, before performing chest compressions on a motionless Lynn.
Police and paramedics responded at around 11 a.m. and found the 21-year-old with a fatal gunshot wound to her head. First-responders attempted to administer aid, but it was too late, police said. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
Authorities soon pieced together what happened — and how the 2-year-old child got ahold of the firearm. Investigators initially determined that the gun belonged to Avery and was “left unsecured” in the apartment, but they did not say where it was located.
The state’s attorney’s office confirmed Tuesday that the firearm was inside a children’s backpack featuring the “Paw Patrol,” a Nickelodeon animated series about a team of rescue dogs whose motto is “No job is too big, no pup is too small.”
“Altamonte Springs Police discovered evidence that a firearm belonging to Avery had been left loaded and unsecured in a child’s ‘Paw Patrol’ backpack on the floor of the couple’s bedroom,” investigators said.
Neither of the couple’s two young children in the home at the time were injured during the fatal shooting, police said. They are now in the care of relatives.
The unintentional shooting involving a child is among thousands of such incidents in recent years. There have been at least 2,347 unintentional shootings by children since 2015, including 879 deaths, according to the gun control advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety. This year, there have been 277 unintentional shootings involving minors, including 114 deaths.
Lynn is remembered by her family as “a thoughtful aunt, sister, daughter, granddaughter, and a loyal friend.” Her family wrote that she was “an amazing mother of two sons who she absolutely adored!”
“Shamaya made many sacrifices because she wanted her children to have the best life,” her obituary reads. “Shamaya’s life was cut short, but we are grateful for the 21 years we had and all the memories we made.”
She was buried Aug. 21 in Miami, where she grew up.
Avery was being held without bond at Seminole County Jail as of Wednesday, police told The Washington Post. A trial date has not yet been scheduled.
Ruiz, who previously said police will provide a lock to any gun owner who does not own one for their firearm to help prevent a similar incident, reiterated Tuesday that the fatal shooting could easily have been avoided.
“I know it’s tragic. I know it may not have been something that that person wanted to do,” said Ruiz. “But now you have consequences.”