Gainesville police arrested the parents of a 3-year-old who fatally shot himself with an unsecured gun Aug 24, charging them with negligent manslaughter and other charges.
Ledrick Lataurus Ferguson, 48, and Kayla Shelynn Carter, 34, were charged with manslaughter, unsafe storage of a firearm and three counts of neglect Wednesday, court documents show. The neglect charges refer to two of their other young children who were present at the time of the shooting.
The defendants appeared at the Alachua County Courthouse Thursday morning for their first appearance before the judge. Their arraignment date is pending, according to the Alachua County Clerk of the Court.
The toddler, identified as Ja’Kobe Ferguson, was playing with his father’s pistol left in an unlocked gun case in the center console of their couch, an arrest report revealed. His two siblings told investigators Ledrick regularly kept the guns there or on top of the refrigerator, according to the report.
On Aug. 24 at 5:57 p.m., Gainesville Police Department Officers and emergency medical staff responded to Lamplighter Mobile Home Community, located at 5200 NE 39th Ave., in response to the shooting. Ja’Kobe was taken to UF Health Shands Hospital and died from his injuries the same night.
Neither parent was home during the time of the incident, according to court records. They routinely left their three children in the care of “a person not suited for that responsibility.” Police said this man, whose identity has not been released, was babysitting Ja’Kobe that night.
Two of Ja’Kobe’s siblings were also there the night of the shooting. When Ja’Kobe found a gun in the living room and began playing with it, his 6-year-old sister yelled at him to give it to her and tried to take the loaded gun away from him. It then went off, killing him, the report reveals.
The other two children told police the man who was watching them did not notice any of this happening. He was watching TV.
Ledrick told police Ja’Kobe’s siblings were responsible for watching him and they should have been watching him better, the report said.
Both children are now being taken care of by relatives, police said.
Ledrick has been convicted of seven felonies, dating back 28 years, including robbery, grand theft auto and battery, according to court records. He wasn’t allowed to own a gun due to his status as a convicted felon, leading to a firearm possession charge.
Carter told police she was paid to be a health care worker for the man who was looking after the children the night of the shooting, the arrest report shows. The man is wheel-chair bound with “dimished mental capacity.” She told police when “‘she is off the clock,” she regularly lets him babysit her children.
After police found the man physically and mentally unfit to care for children, Ledrick told investigators he agreed the man wasn’t capable, according to the report.
Ledrick posted a photo in mourning of his son on his Facebook page the day after the shooting. The attached caption reads: “I’m going to miss you, son. This really hurts. I can’t stop crying but I have to be strong for my family. Fly high, son, and know I love you.”
“Love you, son,” Carter added.
Ja’Kobe was a wide-eyed Batman and Spiderman lover who beamed when watching the Florida Gators play football, according to his obituary. He’s leaving behind ten brothers and sisters.
Contact Lily Kino at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @lily_kino.
Lily is a third-year journalism major with a concentration in environmental science covering criminal justice for The Alligator. Last semester, she served as the Santa Fe reporter. When she's not writing, you can find Lily on a nature walk, eating Domino's Pizza or spending time with her friends.