An Indiana man has been charged with felony child neglect after a 6-year-old boy accidentally fired the man’s loaded handgun, fatally shooting his little sister in July, according to local police.
Terrelle Shawn Jackson, 25, of Indianapolis, Indiana, was arrested September 8, according to a statement from the Cumberland Metropolitan Police Department (CMPD) on Tuesday. He faces one count of Neglect of a Dependent Causing Death, a level 1 felony, in the July 5 shooting of 4-year-old Deor Neita, according to court documents.
Shortly after 4:40 p.m., CMPD officers responded to a call for a child shot at a residence on Woodlark Drive, in Cumberland. Officers immediately entered the residence “after hearing screaming” from the second story of the townhome and discovered Neita suffering from a gunshot wound to her head. While officers and medical personnel from the Indianapolis Fire Department and Indianapolis Emergency Medical Services attempted life-saving measures, Neita was unable to be saved and declared dead at the scene.
CMPD investigated the shooting as a homicide and discovered that four children, ages 6 and younger, had found a gun in an upstairs bedroom, authorities said.
Investigators say they believe the children knew where the gun was kept and who owned the weapon. The firearm was loaded with an extended magazine and did not have a gunlock or safety enabled, police said.
While the four children were “playing” with the firearm, a 6-year-old boy accidentally fired the weapon and shot his sister, Neita.
“It is not believed the 6-year-old had any intention on harming any individual nor had the understanding of the devastation a firearm can create,” CMPD said in a statement.
Cumberland detectives were able to determine that the firearm belonged to Jackson, who was “not allowed by law to possess a firearm” at the time of the fatal shooting.
“His alleged intentional failure to properly secure a loaded firearm in a home with six small children directly contributed to the death of Deor Neita,” CMPD said.
A warrant for Jackson’s arrest was issued August 15 and he was apprehended on September 8, then taken to Marion County Jail. It was unclear at the time of publication whether Jackson had retained an attorney who could speak on his behalf.
CMPD Detective Sergeant Mark A. Waggoner told Newsweek in an email on Tuesday that Jackson is the mother’s “current boyfriend who is in and out of the home” but lives there. He was not at the residence at the time of the shooting.
During the fatal shooting, five children were in the home with “great-grandma,” who was watching them while their mother was at work: two 6-year-olds, a 4-year-old, the 4-year-old who was killed, and an infant. While two of the five children belonged to Jackson, the 6-year-old boy who fired the gun and Neita were not his, Waggoner said to Newsweek. One of the children who lives in the residence was not there at the time of the shooting.
During the shooting, the great-grandmother was changing the infant’s diaper, Waggoner said, adding that she was unaware there was a firearm in the home. The detective told Newsweek that only one gun was found at the scene.
“An initial responding officer was told by one of the children where it was located when he arrived,” Waggoner said. “The weapon had a ‘stove pipe,’ which means the shell casing was not fully ejected from the firearm and was stuck in the slide/ejection point. Usually indicates someone with weak hand/arm strength fired the weapon.”
Waggoner said this has been a “difficult” summer for the CMPD and community after several accidental shootings involving children. He said the department is constantly preaching gun safety and offers free gun locks.
“We strongly encourage everyone to either lock the firearms with a gunlock, utilize a gun safe or even unloading the guns and placing the ammunition in another location,” he said. “We also advocate for gun education for all ages. We cannot be with our children 24/7 and them having the knowledge of firearms and firearm safety could also aid in less accidental discharges.”