A 7-year-old boy has been killed and his grandfather wounded after a shooting which police say stemmed from an argument over jet skis.
The Fourth of July incident took place near a boat ramp just after 8:30 p.m. at the Courtney Campbell Causeway west of Ben T. Davis Beach in Florida, Tampa Police Deputy Chief of Investigations and Support Calvin Johnson said at a news conference on Wednesday.
When gunfire erupted, the grandfather grabbed the boy and “pulled him” into a truck, police said. But when they were inside the vehicle, a round of stray gunshots went through the car, hitting the grandfather in the finger and the boy in the head. Police believe it was the same bullet that struck both.
“I’m sure the young child wasn’t the intended target, but when folks are careless with their firearms and they let that anger take over, now we see what occurs,” Johnson said, adding the grandfather was unaware of the argument over jet skis nearby.
The boy was transported to a local hospital where he was pronounced deceased.
Johnson said witnesses told police that two groups were arguing over jet skis, claiming one group was mad because “the second group was riding their jet skis too close to the shore where the kids were playing in the water.”
An argument ensued, and group members drew weapons and began shooting. The boy was subsequently hit. Police say initial investigations indicate both groups fired shots.
It is unclear if the jet skis were privately owned or rented.
“Senseless gunfire,” Johnson said. “There was no reason, no excuse that an argument could lead to gunfire, much less an argument of jet skis. Now we got citizens, we got families, we got folks in our community who have to deal with this tragic incident.”
“With so many things going on in our nation…this adds to what’s been going on with folks who are not responsible with their firearms,” Johnson added, no doubt referencing previous incidences including where a teenager was shot for ringing the wrong doorbell, and another where a 14-year-old was shot as she played hide and seek.
“We need to do better as a community,” Johnson pleaded. “As Americans, we see everybody around the nation, the first thing they jump to is firearms. There is a better way to deal with anything you may be going through other than going to that firearm. Once somebody is gone they’re not coming back.”
The investigation remains active. Johnson asked the public to contact police or crimestoppers with any information. It is unclear who the person responsible for shooting the fatal shot is; investigators have not yet identified any suspects. Johnson asked those responsible to come forward while homicide detectives speak to witnesses to “hold the folks who did this accountable.”
“We want to bring these folks who did this shooting to justice, we want to hold them accountable for their actions,” Johnson said.
“If they’re out there and they hear me today, turn yourself in. Your actions and your anger led a 7-year-old just starting his life getting killed because you were angry over a jet ski. Just imagine if that was your child.”
“I’m very angry, because I watch the news like everybody else and I see what’s going on…when you have individuals who know the power of guns and what they can do to other people…they pull them out and start shooting indiscriminately, not even caring about who they hit.”
“We have a society that at times they don’t know the impact of gun violence affects generations….we need to do better as a people to be honest with you when it comes down to firearms. We’re seeing it too much.”