DA says family seeks jail time for cousin
A Baton Rouge man who unintentionally shot and killed his cousin in January while hanging out inside a vacant home has pleaded guilty to negligent homicide.
Tyler Washington, 19, 2750 Millerville Road, faces up to five years in prison, but his defense attorney said he is a “prime candidate” for probation given his otherwise clean record.
“It’s a tragic incident,” said the attorney, Tommie N. Gipson Jr. “The victim was Tyler’s best friend and cousin.”
District Attorney Hillar Moore III said some family members of the victim, Trevon Wilson, 18, of Denham Springs, want Washington to receive prison time and plan to testify at his Feb. 6 sentencing hearing before state District Judge Lou Daniel.
Prosecutors plan to take a neutral position on whether Washington should go to prison, Moore said.
The case, one of a string of accidental shooting deaths last winter, stemmed from a Jan. 20 shooting that happened after 2 a.m. inside a darkened home on Main Street near North Eugene Street. The home had no furniture or electricity, but Washington and Wilson went there with a group of friends to hang out on a cold night.
The house once had been home to one of the friends but had been empty for several months, according to police reports.
One of the young men, Ronnel Williams, 19, took Washington’s AR-15-style rifle inside the home and told Washington several times it was loaded, the reports say. Washington told police he thought it was not loaded after aiming it at a wall and pulling the trigger.
Washington told detectives he had the gun across his lap and was in the process of sitting down against a wall when it fired. He said he didn’t know whether his finger had been on the trigger, but called the shooting a “total accident,” police reports say.
A .22-caliber round struck Wilson in the chest, and his friends rushed him to the emergency room at Baton Rouge General Medical Center-Mid City. Days after Wilson’s death, Washington was taken into custody.
Wilson’s family later found a video on his cellphone taken just moments before the shooting that captured the young men playing around with a firearm, according to police reports. One of the young men can be heard saying “don’t be pointing the (expletive) gun at my head.”
Detectives said they could also make out the sound of the rifle loading.
“Someone then stated how do you cock that thing anyway,” a police report says.
Wilson returned to the phone moments later and turned off the camera.
Washington had purchased the rifle about three months before the shooting and had no previous training with firearms, according to police reports.
Wilson’s death came amid a rash of accidental shootings in the capital city that prompted authorities to issue a public health alert urging parents and gun owners to take safety measures around firearms.
The day after Wilson was killed, a similar fatal shooting happened less than four miles away at a home on Jean Street while Terrance Varise was playing with a .357-caliber handgun. The gun went off at the moment Varise’s 2-year-old brother walked into the room, striking him the chest.
Varise, who is awaiting trial, was booked with negligent homicide and felon in possession of a firearm.
On Jan. 26, Tyrus Talbert fatally shot 18-year-old Marcus Williams in the back while the two were playing with a gun at a home on North 24th Street. Talbert, who was 16 at the time of the shooting, has pleaded guilty in juvenile court to negligent homicide and obstruction of justice and was sentenced to four years in state custody.