Adults plead not guilty in 3-year-old boy's shooting death

Adults plead not guilty in 3-year-old boy's shooting death »Play Video
Jahnisha McIntosh appears at her arraignment on March 28, 2012.
TACOMA, Wash. -- The mother of a 3-year-old boy who shot and killed himself with a gun he found in the family car pleaded not guilty to a second degree manslaughter charge.

In court Wednesday, a judge ordered Jahnisha R. McIntosh, 22, held on $15,000 bail.

The man who owned the weapon, 23-year-old Eric B. Vita, also pleaded not guilty to a second degree manslaughter charge and his bail was set at $25,000.

Investigators say McIntosh's son, Julio Segura-McIntosh, shot himself in the head with Vita's handgun after Vita and McIntosh stopped for gas in Tacoma on March 14.

According to prosecutors, Vita put the handgun under the passenger seat when he got out of the car.

Julio then unbuckled himself from his booster seat and went to the front of the car to ask his mom for some candy. With Julio nearby, McIntosh took the pistol out from under the passenger seat and placed it under her seat, prosecutors said.

McIntosh then got out of the car to go into the convenience store to get food while Vita pumped gas.

Julio got the weapon from under the seat and shot himself, police said. The boy's infant sister, who also was in the car when the gun went off, was not injured.

Vita's attorney, David Gehrke, said his client turned himself in to Tacoma police on Tuesday after investigators told him he would be facing charges.

Vita has a concealed pistol license and Gehrke said store clerks had previously become alarmed when they saw him with his holstered gun, so this time he decided to leave it behind.

"This was a horrific tragedy," Gehrke said. "Everybody involved is still shocked... and feels horrible about it."

Washington does not have a law specifically concerning child access to firearms, however state law is very specific about carrying loaded pistols in vehicles.

A person with a concealed pistol license may carry a gun in a car in Washington state, but they are required to have it on their person. If they have to leave behind in the car, the law says it must be locked and concealed from view.

"Nothing is sadder than the death of a child," Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist said in a news release. "And when the death is the result of criminal negligence, there needs to be accountability."

Prosecutors said McIntosh told investigators that she moved the gun so Julio would not be able to get to the weapon.

Friends of McIntosh and Vita told detectives that Vita routinely showed off the gun to people, including Julio, and at one time offered to let the boy hold the gun, prosecutors said.