The family of a 15-year-old Baltimore girl who was allegedly shot dead by a 9-year-old boy over the weekend called on prosecutors to file criminal charges against the child, claiming that he intentionally killed their daughter over a bottle of Gatorade.
Nykayla Strawder’s relatives and friends held a vigil on Tuesday to honor the teen — and also to voice their frustration over the investigation into her death.
“I couldn’t describe to you how it feels to find my child on my porch, on her own porch, murdered,” Dontay Jones, Strawder’s father, said, according to reporting by WBAL-TV.
Baltimore police previously said that Nykayla and her 9-year-old neighbor were playing with a loaded gun on her front porch in the 600 block of Linnard Street in West Baltimore’s Edmondon Village on Saturday night when the youngster “accidentally” shot the teen in the head.
Nykayla was taken to a hospital, where she later died.
The boy was said to have dropped the gun and fled after the shooting. Police later determined that the firearm is registered to the 9-year-old’s family member who works as a security guard.
Under Maryland law, the accused pint-sized gunman cannot be criminally charged because of his age.
During Tuesday’s vigil honoring Nykayla, her father challenged the official version of events.
“(The 9-year-old boy) took my daughter’s Gatorade from her, and when she turned around and asked for her Gatorade, he raised that pistol to my child’s head and murdered her in cold blood. They were not playing with a gun at all,” Jones said.
Other family members claimed that the young neighbor had been feuding with Nykayla’s 11-year-old brother and allegedly come over planning to settle their dispute with a gun.
“That kid prematurely had an issue for weeks, and he came with a gun to hurt a little boy and he ended up finding the big sister doing the normal thing being a big sister do, telling him (her brother) will not come outside and he didn’t,” cousin Raymond Parks told Fox Baltimore. “And the boy pointed the gun at her because of it.”
Those who attended the vigil demanded that charges be brought against the 9-year-old, and also against his family for failing to secure the gun used in the shooting.
“How do you not notice your gun was missing?” There is no excuse, knowing there’s a child in the home and not keeping your gun hidden,” Jones told the Baltimore Sun. “Our daughter is never coming back. We’ll be looking down at our daughter in a casket. I’ll never see her smile again.”
In Maryland, a charge of leaving a gun accessible to a minor is a misdemeanor punishable by a $1,000 fine.
Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott weighed in on the tragic shooting in an interview with WJZ on Tuesday, suggesting that Nykayla’s death was avoidable.
“If this gun was properly secured, she would be alive,” he said. “A mother and father wouldn’t be preparing to bury their own child. We wouldn’t be having all these children with the trauma that they have. We have to be more responsible with our weapons.”