Before his stepfather’s pistol went off and killed a classmate aboard a South Miami-Dade school bus, Jordyn Howe had allowed several students to see or handle the weapon, witnesses told police.
Howe had no enemies, but nevertheless had carried his stepfather’s pistol “for two months” in his black-and-white backpack, even allowing one boy to “rack” the weapon, that student told Miami-Dade detectives.
Another student told cops that Howe had shown her the gun three days earlier on the bus, according to documents released by prosecutors. The witness statements, photos and police reports released Wednesday fill in details on the tragic shooting that led prosecutors to file a manslaughter charge against 15-year-old Howe.
The teen also appeared in Miami-Dade Circuit Court on Wednesday, agreeing to stay at home when not at school, church or counseling while awaiting trial on bail.
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“There will be no hanging out at the mall, no hanging out the friends’ houses,” Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Ellen Sue Venzer told the slender teen with a baby face.
The tragedy culminated Nov. 20 when Howe boarded the school bus outside the gated Waterstone gated community in Homestead, walked to the back and again allowed a 13-year-old identified as P.R. to “rack” the gun, or pull and release the sliding mechanism that loads a bullet.
After awhile, Howe took the gun and put in his waistband. Then 13-year-old Lourdes “Jina” Guzman-DeJesus began “playing with it,” pulling the trigger and aiming around “like pretending,” P.R. told detectives. Howe took the gun back, pointed it at the floor and pulled the trigger. No discharge.
But then, with one hand, Howe lifted the gun toward Guzman-DeJesus and pulled the trigger. This time it went off — hitting the girl in the neck.
“She started screaming and she fell on the floor,” P.R. told police. “He panicked and he just got up and he put the gun away ... in his book bag.
“I picked her up from the floor and helped her sit down on the seat and I was trying to make her feel better.”
Another student told police: “She just started screaming ... We just noticed because of the [hole in the] window and her bleeding.”
Guzman-DeJesus was rushed to Miami Children’s Hospital, where doctors pronounced her dead. Howe immediately confessed to the shooting, and to taking the weapon from his stepfather’s closet.
In his statement to police, Howe said he did not know Guzman-DeJesus or socialize with her. Prosecutors redacted most of his statement; under state law, the “substance of a confession” is not public record.
Howe is charged as an adult with manslaughter with a deadly weapon, possession of a firearm by a minor and carrying a concealed weapon.
Guzman-DeJesus attended Palm Glades Preparatory Academy. Howe has since returned to school, although not at his previous school, Somerset Academy Silver Palms.
Wednesday’s court hearing also marked the first time that the victim’s mother, Ady Guzman-DeJesus, saw the shooting suspect and his family in person. Visibly shaken, she began bawling as the judge began speaking to Howe.
Adding to the pain: Armando “Alex” Guzman, Lourdes’ father, committed suicide after his daughter death.
“This family has been torn apart,” Ady Guzman-DeJesus’ lawyer, Ron Book, told reporters after Wednesday’s court hearing.
The lawyer said Ady Guzman-DeJesus recognized the boy’s stepfather as a man who had once employed her at a local restaurant.
Book — also a high-profile lobbyist — also questioned why Howe’s stepfather had not been charged for not properly securing the weapon, which Howe had taken to school “not once, not twice, but on multiple occasions.”