Justice is sometimes highly unjust.
Lourdes “Jina” Guzmán-De Jesús had her life violently taken away at age 13. Her mother, Ady, was subjected to the most excruciating pain there is – that of burying a child. Her little 7-year-old sister suffered a mental trauma that will shadow her forever.
A family was dismembered and devastated. A father committed suicide after his daughter’s death. Countless parents are now terrified of seeing their children climb onto a school bus.
It’s the disturbing outcome of an accidental gunshot by a teenager who nowadays can go to school, to church or counseling and finds himself charged in the adult criminal justice system with manslaughter with a deadly weapon and carrying a concealed weapon.
And his stepfather? The owner of the pistol he failed to keep in a safe place — where is he?
And his mother, who was not concerned about what was in her son’s backpack — where is she?
And the driver, who did not watch out for the children he was transporting — where is he?
And the boy’s teachers, who did not notice irregular behavior in their student — where are they?
And the parents of the other students, who didn’t seem to have a healthy communication with their children —where are they?
These are questions that clamor for answers. A court hearing last week revealed the first details of the tragic Nov. 20 killing, when Jordyn Howe packed a .40-caliber pistol in his backpack and pulled it out on the bus transporting children to three charter schools in Southwest Miami-Dade.
The gun went off hitting Lourdes in the neck, ending her life amid clouds of anxiety.
Witness statements presented to the prosecutors by detectives from the Miami-Dade County Police Department demonstrate that the 15-year-old defendant had carried the pistol in his backpack on several occasions and had shown it to other students on the bus — bragging about it, probably — even as recently as three days before the girl’s death.
Compassion and conviction bring me pain when a 15-year-old minor is charged as an adult, unless a horrific crime was committed with malice and premeditation, which is not Howe’s case.
Nevertheless, though the killing was not intended, he knew he shouldn’t carry the gun himself and knew enough about how to cock the semi-automatic handgun, flip the safety and pull the trigger.
Even so, it is unfair to him to have to solely bear the brunt of the blame.
The weapon belongs to his stepfather and, apparently, the boy had gotten it from the parents’ closet allegedly wrapped in a shirt, which suggests that it was not safely protected. It is a violation of the Florida law to not have a handgun in a lockbox or secured with a trigger lock where minors reside.
It would be one thing to leave the handgun unprotected once, but the full demonstration of irresponsibility and gross negligence was that Howe had ready access to the weapon anytime he wanted to. The father is the owner of the gun, but the mother shares the responsibility because she lives in the house.
The parents acted as enablers in this accidental death by not keeping an eye on the weapon or their son.
The deplorable school massacres throughout the country should have made them more aware of the danger of leaving a weapon at the reach of a minor. They haven’t been charged and have hardly collaborated with the investigation. Even more surprising is that they have not come out in passionate defense of their child by publicly assuming their own part.
Teachers and administrators at Somerset Academy Silver Palms, where Howe was a student, should not feel that they have a clean conscience either, as well as the school bus driver.
The teenager is said to have pulled out the gun both in school and in the bus. The school staff apparently did not have an effective mechanism to detect this type of irregularity, while the driver did not keep an eye on his passengers’ behavior. Even worse, there are witness statements that have reported that the bus driver had been notified that there was a kid with a gun in the bus.
The students who had contact with the weapon are also responsible for not having reported their classmate. And the parents of these students? Why did their children not confide in them that a classmate was armed?
“Had the parents met their obligations in securing the weapon, had other children been responsible with their basic social conscience to report that the handgun had been brought to school, the girl would not be dead,” said Ron Book, Ady Guzmán-De Jesús lawyer.
It is time for the adults tied to this case to take responsibility and share the blame.