A 54-year-old woman was arrested by Baltimore sheriff’s deputies Wednesday in connection to the case of a 15-year-old girl who was shot and killed by a 9-year-old boy in August, according to authorities and online court records.
The woman, April Gaskins, is the 9-year-old boy’s grandmother, a spokesperson for the Baltimore City Sheriff’s Office said.
Gaskins was indicted by a grand jury on one count of reckless endangerment and two counts of failure to secure firearm with unsupervised minor, according to the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office.
Under state law, the boy cannot be charged in juvenile court due to his age.
Police previously said the gun used was registered to a woman related to the 9-year-old who works as an armed security guard.
The shooting occurred on Aug. 6 in the 600 block of Linnard Street, according to police, where they found NyKayla Strawder after she had been shot in the head. She was later pronounced dead.
“This is an incredibly difficult case given the victim’s age and the circumstances surrounding her death,” State’s Attorney Ivan Bates said in a statement. “While I cannot discuss the details of an open and pending case, it is evident that the grand jury’s decision exemplifies how gun violence is of the utmost importance in our city. It further underscores the seriousness of responsible gun ownership and proper gun storage. 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.”
Gaskins is “adamant” the gun was secured and has no idea how her grandson got ahold of it, according to her lawyer, Brandon Mead.
She will plead not guilty, Mead said.
“She feels horribly about what happened,” he said, “but there’s a difference between that and being criminally responsible, and she’s absolutely not criminally responsible.”
Mead said Gaskins has cooperated with authorities and was released during a bail review Thursday.
Strawder’s father, Dontay Jones, told The Baltimore Banner at the time that the 9-year-old brought a loaded handgun to Jones’ house and demanded his son come outside, weeks after the two had a fistfight while playing basketball. Strawder was on the porch at the time.
“My son would not come outside. So he took my daughter’s drink, and she turned around upset,” Jones told The Banner. “She went to grab his shirt, just asking him ‘Why did you drink my stuff?’ and he raised his hand with the gun.”
The boy dropped the gun and ran away after the shooting, according to police.
Police called the incident an accident, but Jones disagreed.
He recalled coming downstairs to find Strawder on the porch.
“It happened right here. That’s where my daughter was lying,” he said, crying. “Could you imagine, walking down the steps, and your firstborn daughter is laying dead?”
More children were shot in Baltimore last year than in any year since at least 2015, when the city started publishing reliable data on gun violence. In 2022, 84 children were shot, compared to 62 the year before.
Strawder had dreams of studying fashion design in college, her family told WJZ in August.
“She was just a beautiful soul, a beautiful heart. She loved her sisters and brothers. It’s just a tragedy, and I hope we find justice for her and can be at peace,” her cousin said to WJZ.
After the shooting, one of Strawder’s family members requested to be relocated, according to the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement.
MONSE helped facilitate the move and offered resources and support services to neighbors, including food, medical care, mental health support and financial assistance, the agency said.
Baltimore Banner reporter Adam Willis contributed to this report.