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Teen in school bus shooting had brought gun before

It wasn’t the first time Jordyn Alexander Howe carried a .40-caliber pistol in his backpack to school.

At least once before, Jordyn sneaked the weapon from the top shelf of his parents’ closet and tucked it into his bookbag. Then, the 15-year-old flashed the weapon to classmates.

However many kids saw the gun, they didn’t tell teachers, parents or police.

Had they told, 13-year-old Lourdes Guzman DeJesus may still be alive.

On Tuesday, Jordyn buried the gun in his backpack again and pulled it out to show a schoolmate on the bus. As he was sliding it into his backpack, the gun went off, striking Lourdes in the neck.

Other students, including Lourdes’ younger sister, heard the shot.

Less than an hour later, Lourdes, an honor roll student at Palm Glades Preparatory Academy, was pronounced dead at Miami Children’s Hospital.

And Jordyn was in police custody.

On Wednesday, charged with manslaughter and carrying a concealed weapon, Jordyn was ordered held at a juvenile detention center until Dec. 11, when prosecutors will decide whether to charge him as an adult.

Jordyn, a student at Somerset Academy Silver Palms charter school, did not appear at the hearing. His mother, Karla Guerra, and stepfather appeared briefly to request a public defender.

His mother, later reached by phone, declined to speak to reporters.

But for Lourdes’ mother, there was agony, anger and regret.

“How did it happen? How did he have it on him? How did nobody notice?” a weeping Ady Guzman DeJesus told Miami Herald news partner WFOR CBS-4. “I want answers.”

Sources told the Miami Herald the gun belonged to Jordyn’s stepfather, who kept it hidden on a top shelf of the parents’ closet. Jordyn’s mother did not know it was there. The teen had sneaked it to school without their knowledge. Though the Miami-Dade state attorney will review the case, sources said the parents likely won’t face charges because they “reasonably” made an effort to secure the weapon.

That isn’t enough for Lourdes’ mother, who said she doesn’t understand why no one came forward to tell.

“I forgive him but he has to pay for what he did,’’ she said.

The shooting occurred around 6:45 a.m. Tuesday as the bus was traveling at Southwest 296th Street and 137th Avenue in Homestead.

The gun was recovered at the scene.

Jordyn was taken to police headquarters where he gave a sworn statement, according to his arrest affidavit.

Each of the eight students on the private bus was interviewed Tuesday.

On Wednesday, detectives continued interviewing witnesses and others to piece together how Jordyn managed to get the gun, which was legal, sources said.

Lourdes and her younger sister were among the students on the bus bound for three Homestead area charter schools: Palm Glades Preparatory Academy; Summerville Advantage Academy, which her sister attends; and Jordyn’s school, Somerset Academy Silver Palms.

Neighbors said Jordyn’s family moved into their Homestead house less than a year ago and mostly keep to themselves.

They described Jordyn and his siblings as “polite.”

“It’s a tragic situation,” said neighbor Martin King, adding, “You don’t keep a loaded weapon in the house — and a 14-, 15-year-old should know better. It’s tragic for that family, it’s tragic for the other family.”

Amanda Pilkenton said her toddler often played nearby. “It terrifies me. What if it happened right outside?’’

At Palm Glades on Wednesday afternoon, about 200 students gathered in the parking lot, and many tied several dozen pink, blue, yellow and other colored balloons to a fence.

Despite the somber ceremony, teachers urged students to remember happy times with Lourdes. Cheerleaders chanted “Let’s Go Lourdes” and pumped blue and white pom-poms in the air.

“I was trying not to cry,” said a tearful eighth-grader, Sophia Aguirre, who sang in chorus class with Lourdes and who tied a blue balloon to the fence for her. “She was a very cheerful person, always making people happy, making jokes.”

Ninth-grader Shalimar Cruz said, “I felt really sad, but at the same time, I know she’s in a better place.”

Mike Strader, president of Charter School Associates, which runs Palm Glades, said the school is planning a memorial for Lourdes next week.

“Obviously, there’s a lot of sadness and grief and shock,” he said. “Lourdes was a popular student, and she was very well-liked.”

At the shooting site Wednesday, a small memorial had been set up. A poster with a rosary, pictures of Lourdes and messages from friends and strangers was put alongside teddy bears and candles.

Extra mental health counselors were at Palm Glades to talk with students, and the school sent home a letter with tips for parents on how to talk about the crisis.

The bus service, Yelimar and Portieles, is operated by Yoslexis Ponce, who said he has driven a private school bus for about two years.

He said kids ride peacefully, watching TV on the air-conditioned bus, and sometimes his own children join his route.

They were not with him on Tuesday, and he said he never saw anything suspicious about Jordyn. If he had known a weapon was on board, he would have taken action, he said.

"No knives, no guns, no weapons are allowed," he said. If there were any, "I stop and everybody gets off.”

Strader said the bus service was not under contract with the schools, but parents had hired it themselves. That is common practice for parents at public and charter schools. The Yelimar and Portieles company was not listed as registered with the state of Florida. But Yoslexis Ponce is registered with the county’s business affairs office to operate a private school bus, said Raul Gonzalez, with the Miami-Dade County regulatory and economic resources department. Gonzalez said the office’s records showed Ponce had a good driving record and his vehicle had passed inspection in August.

Herald staff writer Anna Edgerton contributed to this report.