Local News

Gunplay Kills Teen; Friend Charged

Posted March 29, 2007 11:40 a.m. EDT
Updated March 29, 2007 6:17 p.m. EDT

— A 16-year-old girl was killed Wednesday night after she and a friend were playing with a stolen gun and the weapon discharged, authorities said.

Jerticha Ford and friend were sitting in a car near her house at about 7 p.m. Wednesday and were playing with a 9mm handgun the friend had stolen when the gun went off, authorities said.

Ford was shot once in the side and died later of her injuries, authorities said.

"I was asleep, and everybody came running in the house, saying she got shot, and I ran outside," Ford's twin sister, Yolanda Ford, said before breaking down in tears.

Jamel Gates, 17, has been charged with involuntary manslaughter in the case.

"He was horseplaying around with the weapon, and the gun went off," Hoke County Sheriff Hubert Peterkin said. "The investigation is showing that he did not intentionally point the gun, but the gun went off and shot the victim."

Peterkin said he doesn't know who the gun belongs to or how long the teen had it. Investigators found it inside a cinderblock after the shooting. An investigation is underway to find the gun's owner, and that person could face charges, he said.

As Ford's family mourned her death, they also pleaded with people to be careful with guns.

"Guns are nothing to play with. They're not to be used as a toy," said Ford's uncle, Ronnie Ford. "My niece was a positive person. She had great potential. She had a love for life. She had respect for her friends and family."

Second slaying under investigation

Ford's death was one of two slayings in Hoke County Wednesday night.

Investigators said somebody fired more than 15 shots at a car driver by Michael Freeman of Raeford. He drove more than a half-mile before crashing into tree and dying.

Authorities have no suspects in Freeman's shooting.