Florida’s State Attorney Andrew Warren announced that a 15-year old boy who shot and killed another teenager in the home of a Tampa-based police officer in December will be charged with manslaughter. 

Four teens were present for the shooting, which occurred after the teen son of the officer unlocked a master bedroom with a paperclip in order to use the inside bathroom. The room remained unlocked, at which point two other teens entered the room and found a gun, which was believed to be unloaded. The four teens reconvened in the officer’s son’s bedroom, where the shooting took place. 

According to Warren, two separate issues are at the forefront of this case. First, there is the killing itself. While not malicious, Florida statute stipulates that an unintentional killing due to reckless disregard does constitute a crime, i.e. manslaughter. Second, laws stipulate that Florida gun owners are required to store their weapons in a secure manner when it is believed they could be reasonably accessed by a minor. Secure manners of storage include lockbox, in a secure location, or with a trigger lock. 

While the room was locked and the officer had advised his son not to access it, the court could argue that the officer’s belief that the gun could not be accessed under the circumstances was “mistaken and ill-advised”, due to the age of his son and the ease in which the door was unlocked. However, at this time there are no plans to charge the officer with a second-degree misdemeanor. 

One legal analyst called into question Florida’s gun storage laws, claiming they are too broad and open to interpretation. The family of the deceased teen has also spoken out, expressing dismay that the Tampa police officer was not charged for improper storage of his firearm. 

Source: ABC Action News, “Teen charged with manslaughter after fatal shooting of Bradley Hulett inside Tampa officer’s home in December“, Feb 28, 2020