A grand jury has indicted the grandmother of a 9-year-old boy police say shot and killed 15-year-old Nykayla Strawder last summer, officials said Thursday.
April Gaskins, 54, is charged with reckless endangerment and two counts of failure to secure a firearm with an unsupervised minor, according to the state’s attorney and online court records. Gaskins is scheduled for arraignment March 21. No attorney was listed for her in online court records, as of Thursday afternoon.
Baltimore City State’s Attorney Ivan Bates said in a news release that Gaskins is the grandmother of the child who “pulled the trigger.” He called it an incredibly difficult case given the circumstances surrounding the victim’s death.
Nykayla, a high school sophomore, was killed in August by a child whose family lives around the corner, according to her parents. Police previously called the shooting accidental and said the boy would not face charges because of his age. Her parents told The Baltimore Sun at the time they wanted to see charges against adults who should have kept the gun secured.
“How do you not notice your gun was missing? There is no excuse — knowing there’s a child in the home and not keeping your gun hidden,” Dontay Jones said in an interview at the family’s West Baltimore home last year.
Police previously said the gun was registered to a female relative of the boy and that she works as an armed security guard. Officials did not specify her relationship to the boy.
A spokesperson with Maryland State Police said Gaskins has been a licensed security guard in the state for more than 22 years.
“At this time, after our Licensing Division conferred with our legal department, we are not issuing an emergency suspension of her security guard license,” the spokesperson said Friday in an email.
[ After teen girl killed by 9-year-old, Baltimore parents want criminal charges against gun owner: ‘There is no excuse’ ]
Bates said in the release that he was unable to discuss details of an open case, but he called the grand jury’s decision evidence that “gun violence is of the utmost importance in our city.”
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“It further underscores the seriousness of responsible gun ownership and proper gun storage,” Bates said. “This is the first step in the long road to justice for the Strawder family, and my office will be there for them every step of the way.”
Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison, too, called the indictment a message that people who don’t practice responsible gun ownership will be held accountable.
Safe storage is a simple step to prevent tragedies, he said, noting that unsecured firearms “correlate directly to firearms used to commit violent crimes.”
“We must reinforce safe and secure firearm storage to ensure that these firearms do not end up in the hands of our young people or those wanting to use firearms to perpetuate violence in our city,” Harrison said.
Gaskins was arrested “without incident” by deputies from the Baltimore City Sheriff’s Office.
[ Mourners remember teen girl lost to gun violence in Baltimore, demand justice, sound alarm: ‘Little kids are carrying guns’ ]
Nykayla was remembered at an August vigil that drew more than 100 people as a loving daughter, sister and friend who was looking forward to getting her driver’s license and was considering college. She was passionate about fashion and talked about becoming a designer.
“She went from a kid who needed so much to a kid who just blossomed,” her aunt and guardian, Donyette McCray, said at the time. “I’m not questioning God, but ... I was so excited to see what her future held.”