The 13-year-old middle-school student accused of shooting and killing a former Bear Lakes Middle School classmate over the outcome of a condom-flipping game was arrested and charged with manslaughter Tuesday.
Because of his age, the teen will be tried as a juvenile for the Feb. 10 death of 14-year-old David Walker in the Ivy Green apartment complex in Riviera Beach. Had the teen been one year older, he would have been charged as an adult. He recently transferred from Bear Lakes to Gold Coast Middle School.
"In Palm Beach County, which is the 15th Circuit, anybody over the age of 14 who commits a violent felony goes to adult court," said Mike Edmondson, spokesman for the State Attorney's Office.
The decision to charge the boy as a juvenile, exempting him from the possibility of a life sentence, satisfied Walker's family and local activists opposed to trying minors as adults.
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel is not identifying the teen by name because of his age. If convicted, he would be sentenced to a juvenile-offender program. His term would be up to the program, Edmondson said, but typically it is three years for serious offenses. Had the boy been charged as an adult, he would have faced the possibility of a life sentence, Edmondson said.
"We don't feel like he deserves life in prison, but he has to pay for what he did to my brother," said Walker's eldest sister, Ayesha Walker, 21, "He shouldn't be able to get off scot-free."
Bishop Thomas Masters, pastor of New Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church in Riviera Beach and leader of Under Our Wings, a group that opposes the death penalty for juveniles, agreed.
"At the end of the day, any charge in the juvenile system -- at its worst -- is better than an adult charge at its best," Masters said.
According to the arrest report, the 13-year-old was charged with manslaughter because "by his own act of culpable negligence [he did] kill David Walker by shooting him."
About 5 p.m. on Feb. 10, the teen told investigators, he didn't know the .22 caliber automatic handgun, which he'd found on the ground and thought was a BB gun, was loaded. It fired when Walker tried to slap it away, he said.
The 13-year-old pulled the gun from his pocket and pointed it at Walker after he'd won the condom game, the object of which is to guess which side the condom package will land on, either matching or not matching. Walker told his friend to put the gun away. As the 13-year-old did so, he pointed it more directly at Walker, the report said.
"At this, Walker apparently became more aware that he might get shot and slapped at the firearm to get it away from him," the report said. That's when the gun went off and Walker was hit once in the chest, the report said.
Walker was taken to St. Mary's Medical Center in West Palm Beach, where he died in surgery at 7:05 p.m.
After the shooting, students at Bear Lakes Middle School, where both teens were in the eighth grade, thought the shooting was an accident. Hearing some people's comments that her brother's killer shouldn't have been charged upset Ayesha Walker.
"However the gun went off, whether it was an accident or intentional, he has to pay the consequences for what he did," she said. Even though the boy's mother could lose her son in a way, Ayesha Walker said, "at least he's living. Whatever time he gets, his mother will be able to touch him, hug him, write him."