MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Miami Police Chief Jorge Colina says he is “making a public plea” after the deaths of two teenage girls in Miami recently during a 6-day period.
Colina and Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho and his school’s police Chief Edwin Lopez warned the public about the need for gun safety and safeguarding weapons when they are not being used.
“We want to make a public plea,” Colina told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench. “This is a tragedy that should not have happened and should not happen again. What I would like to say is that everyone should be mindful of weapons in the house and how kids are at home. They are not at school and they are at home and they do not have a lot of extracurricular activities there.
Colina said ultimately both suspects were reckless but he did say that the restrictions from the Coronavirus can be a factor with youngsters cooped up at home more than ever.
“We know that when people are occupied that way they should be there are typically less instances like these that are likely to happen but ultimately it was a matter of recklessness,” he said. “I think it was a combination.”
Miami-Dade Schools Police Chief Edwin Lopez said “More than half the gun owners in the U.S. do not safeguard their firearms which means they should be stored properly in gun cabinets with the appropriate trigger lock mechanism. Unsecure guns can lead to unintentional shootings.”
Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said “I have a heavy heart for this community. I am devoid of tears or hugs to parents and grandparents who I have met at the Ryder Trauma Center or their house or funeral homes attempting to console the inconsolable. Amid the pandemic and the crisis, there is an ongoing crisis that continues to unfold in our community that is robbing the innocence of Miami-Dade one child at a time.”
“It’s reprehensible because both of these cases could have been prevented,” he said. “There was the failure to safeguard weapons. Protect your guns. Lock your guns. It is the law. Children are at home.”
On Monday night, a 17-year-old girl was fatally shot by a friend in an apartment, and on May 12, a 17-year-old boy accidentally shot a 15-year-old girl while handling a gun inside a home, according to police.
In the Monday night shooting, four people, including two juveniles, were detained. All stated the shooting had been accidental. In that case, a 17-year-old is charged with manslaughter, according to the police report.
The girl, in that case, was found dead on the floor in the Allapattah residence with a gunshot to the head.
Police recovered a black handgun and a magazine that was on a desk, according to authorities.
In the May 12th shooting of the 15-year-old girl. Thalys Oliveira, who turns 18 years old in two weeks, was arrested and charged with manslaughter in the death of Arya Gray, who was shot in the head. Gray was a 9th grader at Miami Beach Senior High School, according to her family.
On Thursday, her uncle Sergio Rastelli told D’Oench “It is an unfortunate situation. It is the lack of parents who check their children’s bags and who do not talk to children about guns and gun violence and what guns can do. If you pull the trigger this is not an accident. You meant to pull the trigger.”
Police said the gun that was used to take Gray’s life had been stolen in Homestead.
“If you have a gun and it is stolen,” said Rastelli, “what are you doing with a stolen gun at the age of 17 or 14 or 15. The only way to stop all of this is for educators and the educational system to make it very clear to teenagers and their parents that this has got to stop.”
According to the police report, witnesses said Oliveira was ‘recklessly brandishing’ a gun while inside his home.
Two of the witnesses told police they asked him to put the gun away, which he did, but a short time later, he had the gun again. The witnesses said he “pointed the firearm at the victim, placing his finger on the trigger and fired one round and striking the victim in the head,”, according to the report.
At the time, Carvalho tweeted out condolences:
“Completely preventable & utterly heartbreaking. As long as weapons are accessible to children, tragedies like these will no doubt continue to happen. Tonight, we mourn the loss of this young & promising life. Girl dies after being shot in head in Miami.”