A mother and her male friend Wednesday pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree manslaughter in the accidental shooting of a 3-year-old at a Tacoma gas station near the Tacoma Mall.
Eric Vita, 23, and Jahnisha McIntosh, 22, were charged in the March 14 death of Julio Segura-McIntosh. McIntosh was the boy’s mother.
Vita’s bail was set at $25,000. McIntosh’s bail was set at $15,000. Vita was ordered to have no contact with McIntosh.
According to Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist, the child retrieved a loaded 9mm handgun belonging to Vita from under the driver’s seat while the two adults were out of the car and accidentally shot himself in the head while standing or kneeling on the passenger seat.
Vita, who has a concealed weapons permit, had been carrying the gun in his waistband. He removed the gun and placed it under the passenger seat when he went to pump gas. Vita told investigators he took the gun from his waistband because his pants were hanging low and because the last time a gas station attendant saw his gun police were called.
After Vita left the van, the toddler, who had been riding in a child seat in the back of the van, left that seat, went to the front of the van and asked his mother, who was driving, for candy. McIntosh, the prosecutor said, retrieved the gun from under the passenger seat and placed it under the driver’s seat. She then left the car to go inside the gas station store leaving her 3-year-old and an 8-month-old daughter in the van.
Vita had showed off the gun to friends with the children present and on one occasion offered to let the toddler hold the gun before another adult intervened, the prosecutor said.
“Nothing is sadder than the death of a child,” Lindquist said, “and when the deathis the result of criminal negligence, there needs to be accountability. Guns are inherently dangerous and the law, as well as common sense, requires that guns be handled responsibly, especially around children.”
The toddler’s death was the third accidental shooting of a child within three weeks in Western Washington. On Feb. 22, an 8-year-old Bremerton girl was seriously wounded when a gun in a classmate’s backpack accidentally went off. On March 10, a 7-year-old Snohomish County girl died after her brother found a gun in the family car and it went off.