Toddler fatally shoots man, then family lies to cover it up, Florida police say

A family is accused of covering up an accidental shooting in which a toddler shot and killed a 21-year-old man, Florida authorities said.

Two people now face charges in the death of Bernard Carter III, the Gainesville Police Department said April 18.

On March 24, officers responded to a call about a gunshot victim at an apartment complex, police said in an earlier news release. Witnesses told officers that Carter walked into his family members’ apartment and said he had been shot, according to police.

He was taken to a hospital, where he died of his injuries several days after the shooting, police said.

Detectives reached out to the public for information on the shooting. But when they received an anonymous tip, they learned their initial understanding of what happened was false, according to investigators.

What actually happened, police said, is a toddler had access to an unsecured handgun. The child picked up the gun and accidentally fired it, striking Carter, according to police.

“Adults within the home knew what occurred, but chose to cover-up the incident and actively misled law enforcement about the events surrounding Carter’s death for multiple weeks,” police said. “This also deprived the toddler and two other juvenile witnesses from receiving necessary crisis-related services.”

Authorities said they are now charging Carter’s mother and brother with tampering with a witness and two counts of child abuse. The brother also faces charges of tampering with evidence and perjury, police said.

The mother’s attorney declined to comment to McClatchy News because the case is pending. The brother hasn’t been taken into custody yet, according to police and Alachua County records.

Carter, who was affectionately known as Man Man, “loved to play video games, listen to music, and spend time with family and friends,” family wrote in his obituary.

“His favorite saying (was), ‘Let me get that there!’ He also loved calling everyone ‘Jit,’” family said.

Firearm safety experts advise gun owners to lock their guns in a safe location away from children and never handle a loaded firearm at home.

Gainesville is in north Florida and is home to the University of Florida.

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