Family Members Arrested For Cover-Up After Toddler Fatally Shoots Man

Two members of a Florida family were charged and accused of covering up the death of a relative who’d been accidentally shot by a 2-year-old, Gainesville Police announced Thursday. 

Bernard Carter III was initially reported to have been shot before entering a family member’s apartment in Gainesville on March 24, according to an earlier press release by police. Carter died from his injuries several days later.

According to a Thursday press release, police learned that a toddler living in the home had “immediate access to an unsecured handgun” on the day of the shooting. Police said the toddler grabbed the handgun and shot Carter.

Bernard Carter III via Gainesville Police Department
Bernard Carter III via Gainesville Police Department Gainesville Police Department

The victim’s mother, Lawanda Wade, 50, and his brother, Quante Whitaker, 29, knew about the shooting but chose to cover it up and misled investigators for weeks, according to the release.

Wade and Whitaker were each charged with tampering with a witness and two counts of child abuse, and Whitaker also faces additional charges of tampering with evidence and perjury during an official proceeding, according to the release.

According to Wade’s arrest report, cited by local news outlet Alachua Chronicle, family members had originally told the responding officers that Carter had been shot elsewhere before entering the apartment.

Police stated that the family was uncooperative with the responding officers and did not allow them to search the apartment, according to the Alachua Chronicle. Police also alleged Whitaker told “numerous” lies during the course of the investigation and contradicted many of his own statements.

An 8-year-old who was present the night of the shooting gave officials a “coached version” of the events that night, first claiming Carter had been shot by a man in a mask before admitting Carter had been shot in his bedroom while the 2-year-old was in the room.

Police believe Whitaker retrieved the gun from Carter’s room following the shooting and hid it in the kitchen, per the Alachua Chronicle report.

Wade was arrested on Wednesday, but Whitaker has not been taken into custody yet. An attorney for Wade declined to comment to McClatchy News.