On an average day last year, Akron police officers took about two illegal firearms off the city’s streets.Police on Wednesday took hold of another weapon, this time from the back of a father’s sedan. It was too late for 4-year-old Jamarcus Allen, who was shot to death that morning with his dad’s gun.
It was too late, as well, for Akron police Chief James Nice and his campaign to combat gun violence that has taken hold in his city.
In an interview Thursday, Nice said the circumstances surrounding the child’s death are symbolic of why he wants everyone in Akron, from citizens to judges to legislators, to place greater emphasis and harsher penalties on illegal firearms possession.
Nice and his staff have been working for months tracking every gun that officers seized last year — 652 in all, and more than 1,200 the past two years.
“It’s every day. It’s just crazy,” the exasperated chief said Thursday. “How is it that so many people in Akron have an illegal gun?”
Police have charged Terrance Allen, 48, with involuntary manslaughter. It appears Jamarcus found his father’s 9 mm pistol and fired a shot through his own head. It happened as they drove in a Ford Taurus on South Arlington Street near Davies Avenue.
The boy probably was dead when Allen flagged down a Summit County sheriff’s deputy. The officer yanked Jamarcus from his father’s arms and rushed him to a waiting ambulance.
Jamarcus was declared dead less than an hour later.
Allen, 48, also is charged with child endangering and illegal weapons possession. A prior felony conviction barred him from lawfully carrying a firearm. He remains jailed under a $500,000 bond.
The bullet that killed Jamarcus pierced his head and exited through the car’s roof, just above the rear passenger seat. Because of the circumstances surrounding the shooting, the Summit County Medical Examiner’s Office has ruled Jamarcus’ death a homicide.
While police are sorting out how Jamarcus was shot and whether he shot himself accidentally, medical examiner spokesman Gary Guenther said the homicide ruling will stand, regardless.
“The thing we’re still investigating is if he did it himself or if someone else shot him,” Guenther said. “But, either way, if you leave a gun accessible to a 4-year-old, it’s negligent and you still have homicide.”
Additional testing, including gunshot residue examinations on the hands of the child and father, will be conducted in the case to determine which, if either, fired a shot.
Meanwhile, Chief Nice said detectives also are working with federal investigators to track the history of the 9 mm pistol recovered from inside Allen’s car. They already know the end of the trail.
On Wednesday, Jamella Allen, the boy’s mother, said she first saw the pistol last summer. She said Terrance Allen claimed it was a laser gun that he had purchased at an area gun show. She demanded he get rid of the gun, whether it was real or not, she said.
A week ago, she reiterated her demands when Jamarcus found the pistol hidden inside a bathroom wall and began playing with the weapon.
Where the trail of Terrance Allen’s gun started, like the trail of the 1,200 other guns seized since 2011, is part of the ongoing course police are charting. Nice’s goal, he said, is to one day see harsher sentences for illegal gun possession.
“Terrance is the typical guy we see,” Nice said. “It’s not the hunters or the registered gun owners that we’re seeing. It’s criminals. That’s why we want to know how they got the gun, where the got the gun and why they’re not in jail.”
Phil Trexler - Akron Beacon Journal (MCT)
©2013 the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)
Visit the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio) at www.ohio.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services