A Christmas Eve argument between teenage brothers over gifts ended in tragedy in Florida when a 14-year-old boy shot and killed his sister, who had tried to resolve the fight — and then was shot by his older brother according to the local sheriff.
The brothers were shopping for Christmas on the eve of Christmas Sunday with their mother and their sister, Abrielle Baldwin, 23, and her two sons when the argument broke out.
“They had this family spat over who was getting what and how much money was being spent on who,” Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri told a news conference Tuesday.
The argument continued as the family made their way to their grandmother’s house in Largo, Fla. The brothers were each in possession of a gun, the sheriff said.
“They get to grandma’s house [and the 14-year-old] takes out his gun and tells him he’s going to shoot him in the head,” the sheriff said.
The older brother said he didn’t want to fight and asked his younger sibling to get out of the house, he added. Their uncle and sister, Baldwin, attempted to turn the situation around.
“You all need to leave that stuff alone … It’s Christmas,” Baldwin told them while standing outside the property, according to Gualtieri.
The 14-year-old, after allegedly threatening to shoot his sister and her baby, is accused of shooting Baldwin in the chest while she was holding her son in a carrier at 1:45 p.m. She fell to the ground and was later pronounced dead at a hospital. Her baby was not injured.
Seconds after the shooting, the 15-year-old brother came outside holding his own handgun and shot his younger brother in the stomach, Gualtieri said. The 14-year-old was unarmed when his brother shot him, he said, and is in custody in stable condition at a hospital.
The 15-year-old then fled, tossing his weapon into a yard nearby, and was later taken into custody at a relative’s house.
Gualtieri said that both teens were arrested and that only one of the two weapons was recovered at the scene, expressing concern that the missing gun would eventually be picked up and used in another crime. Audio of the incident was captured on a neighbour’s camera, Gualtieri said.
“The problem is, we got way too many kids out there with way too many guns,” Gualtieri said, adding that he hoped gun laws would change. “We need to get serious, and we need to get tough.”
He said prosecutors are reviewing the case and will decide whether to charge the 14-year-old as an adult with first-degree murder.
The 15-year-old will be charged with attempted first-degree murder and tampering with physical evidence, he added. He is being held in a mental health facility after making statements about harming himself, Gualtieri said.
Before the shooting, the 14-year-old posed on Snapchat with the weapon “he used to kill his sister,” Gualtieri said, adding that people who knew the brothers told police that the teens “carried guns all the time.” Gualtieri said that obtaining a gun is “really easy” and that people are either buying stolen ones “cheap on the street” or taking them from unlocked vehicles. Earlier this year, he said, both brothers were arrested for “numerous car burglaries” in their area.