BALTIMORE — A Baltimore woman was found guilty of criminal charges for failing to secure the gun that her 9-year-old grandson was carrying when he fatally shot a teenage girl on Aug. 6, 2022.
April Gaskins will be sentenced on Sept. 14 after Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry G. Williams convicted her on charges of reckless endangerment and firearm access by a minor.
She faces up to six years in prison, according to the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office.
“This was an incredibly challenging case given the victim’s age and the circumstances surrounding her death. Responsible gun ownership and proper gun storage are paramount to keeping our children safe,” said State’s Attorney Ivan Bates. “This case highlights the dire consequences when people are careless with deadly weapons and my commitment to holding parents and guardians accountable for the actions of their children, especially in cases involving gun violence. I continue to keep the Strawder family in my prayers as they grapple with the loss of their child.”
Nykayla Strawder, 15, was hanging out on the front porch of her family’s West Baltimore rowhouse with other kids when the gun discharged. Police said it was accidental.
Under Maryland law, the 9-year-old can’t face criminal charges because of his age. But the August 2022 shooting prompted outrage from the victim’s family and calls for adults to be held accountable for allowing children access to deadly weapons.
Baltimore Police previously said the gun was registered to a female relative of the boy who worked as a private security guard.
A grand jury indictment previously accused his grandmother, Gaskins, of reckless endangerment and two counts of failure to secure a firearm with an unsupervised minor present.
Maryland law says an adult cannot leave a loaded firearm “where the person knew or should have known that an unsupervised child would gain access” to the weapon — a misdemeanor offense whose maximum penalty is a $1,000 fine.
Under a bill that state lawmakers passed, children under 10 cannot be charged with a crime. Extensive research shows young children are unable to fully understand the consequences of their actions and the workings of the criminal justice system.
”We respect the judge’s decision,” said Brandon Mead, Gaskins’ attorney, following the bench trial. “We don’t necessarily agree with it, but we respect it.”
Mead said his client has no prior criminal record. He described what happened as an “unfortunate set of circumstances.”
Though they did not feel what happened rose to the level of reckless endangerment, Mead said, that’s why there are appeals courts. In the meantime, he said, “We are certainly hoping to get the best result at that sentencing.”
WJZ is a media partner of The Baltimore Banner.