TAMPA, Fla (WFLA) — On New Year’s Day, a fight at Curtis Hixon Park escalated and a 13-year-old pulled out a gun and shot a 16-year-old.
“He’s shot! He’s shot! Come get him,” a girl screamed.
One week later, Tampa police responded to another case of teen gun violence. Investigators say a 14-year-old boy shot and killed 12-year-old James Lett Jr.
“It was like my whole body dropped,” his aunt Latoya Lett said. “My heart jumped out of my body. “
“Knowing I won’t be able to see my nephew anymore, him calling me TT, him giving me those big hugs, that big smile, it’s very hard,” she added.
Now, 13th Judicial Circuit State Attorney Susan Lopez is taking action, planning to charge more teens as adults for gun violence.
“When we charge teenagers as adults, we do this with a very heavy heart,” she said.
The Hillsborough County prosecutor says the decision to charge a juvenile as an adult is made by a team.
“They look at the defendants age, the charge, prior history and other factors,” she said.
State Attorney Lopez said gun violence here in Tampa needs to be addressed quickly no matter the age of the offender.
“We are witnessing more juveniles in our city and in our county with guns committing violent crimes that are putting people in danger and even taking the lives of innocent victims,” she said. “We must address these acts of violence early and hold these individuals accountable.”
She says the 13-year-old boy charged in the Curtis Hixon had three pending cases in juvenile court already.
State Attorney Lopez explained it’s rare a juvenile’s first offense is murder or attempted murder,
“We must address these acts of violence early and hold these individuals accountable,” she said.
The State Attorney’s Office released this data below comparing the number of juveniles tried as adults, with the number of gun-related crimes and homicides.
|# of cases transferred to adult||# of firearm related||percent firearm||# of homicide||percent homicide||average of percent firearm|