TACOMA, Wash. -- Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist has charged Eric Vita, 23, and Jahnisha McIntosh, 22, with Manslaughter in the Second Degree for the accidental shooting death of three-year-old Julio Segura-McIntosh on March 14.
Lindquist said McIntosh and her boyfriend had stopped at a gas station near Tacoma Mall just after midnight. McIntosh s 8-month-old daughter was strapped into a rear-facing car seat in the second row and Julio was in a booster-seat in the third row. The booster-seat buckled using the car s standard seatbelt. Julio was able to release himself.
Lindquist said Vita had a loaded 9mm handgun outfitted with a laser beam sight in his waistband. Before going into the station, he placed the gun under the front passenger seat. Julio unbuckled his seatbelt and came to the front of the van to ask his mother, who was still sitting in the driver s seat, for some candy. As Julio stood there, McIntosh took the gun from under the passenger seat and placed it under her seat. Vita returned to the car and started pumping gas. McIntosh then got out of the van to go inside the gas station store for food. Julio was left unrestrained inside the vehicle.
Vita told investigators that, although he has a concealed weapon permit, he was wearing his pants low, and the last time a gas station clerk spotted the handgun, the police were called, so he left the gun in the car. McIntosh said she moved the gun and placed it under the driver s seat so Julio would not be able to grab the weapon.
Detectives interviewed McIntosh s friends and family, who reported that Vita routinely showed off the gun and its laser beam sight to people, including Julio. On one occasion, Vita offered to let Julio hold the gun before another adult intervened.
Nothing is sadder than the death of a child, said Lindquist, and when the death is the result of criminal negligence, there needs to be accountability. Guns are inherently dangerous and the law, as well as common sense, requires that guns be handled responsibly, especially around children.