Lourdes Guzman-DeJesus hopped onto her bus Tuesday morning, but never made it to school.The cheery 13-year-old, who loved music, dancing and art, was accidentally shot and killed by a fellow student who had carried a gun onto the school bus.
Miami-Dade police late Tuesday charged 15-year-old Jordyn Alexander Howe with manslaughter and carrying a concealed firearm.
On the way to school Tuesday, Jordyn pulled the gun out of his backpack and displayed it, according to an arrest affidavit. The gun went off once, striking Lourdes in the neck.
She was flown to Miami Children’s Hospital, where she died. No one else was injured.
Lourdes and her younger sister were among eight students on the private bus bound for three Homestead area charter schools: Palm Glades Preparatory Academy, where Lourdes was a student; Summerville Advantage Academy, which her sister attended; and Jordyn’s school, Somerset Silver Palms.
The shooting occurred about 6:45 a.m. as the bus was traveling at Southwest 296th Street and 137th Avenue in Homestead, according to Miami-Dade police. The gun was recovered at the scene.
An 11-year-old girl on the bus immediately used her cellphone to call her mother.
“I’m very lucky she was OK,’’ her mother told reporters at the scene.
Other parents flocked to Palm Glades to pick up their children. Grief counselors were also at the school.
Jordyn was taken to Miami-Dade police headquarters where he provided a sworn statement, the affidavit said. On Tuesday night, he was taken to Miami-Dade Juvenile Assessment Center.
Detectives spent the day gathering evidence and trying to interview the students at the headquarters in Doral. Miami-Dade’s homicide unit is in charge of the case since Homestead does not have homicide detectives.
“Obviously, they are very traumatized,” Miami-Dade police spokesman Alvaro Zabaleta said of the children who witnessed the shooting.
At Palm Glades, Gilberto Canino came early to pick up his two children.
“I still haven’t been able to cope with it,” he said. “I don’t understand how this could happen.”
“I’m scared,” said Ruth Otero, whose son, Christian, is in eighth grade. She said he walks to school but she was still worried at the news of the shooting.
The bus service is operated by Yellimar & Portieles. A man who answered the phone there said he couldn’t talk because he was at the police headquarters being questioned.
Lourdes was born in New Brunswick, N.J. Her mother, Ady DeJesus, works as a recreation director for Coral Reef Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Miami.
In a statement, DeJesus described her daughter as “a beautiful angel” who made the honor roll at school and loved her little brother and sisters.
“Feels like just yesterday I saw her running around in her Pamper, dancing and modeling for the camera,” she said. “Times and moments spent with Jina are memories I will cherish and keep in my heart forever.”
Her daughter always had lots of love to give and plenty of love given to her, she said. “I have and always will be proud of her.”
DeJesus thanked everyone for their concerns and prayers, saying her family appreciated them.
On Tuesday night, a woman who answered the telephone of Karla Guerra, identified by police as the shooter’s mother, declined to be interviewed.
Palm Glades Preparatory Academy and Palm Glades Preparatory High School opened this year on the same campus at 22655 SW 112th Ave., serving students in grades six through 10. Summerville serves students in kindergarten through fifth grade.
Those three schools are managed by Charter School Associates, based in Coral Springs.
The Somerset network includes 34 charter schools in Florida, Nevada and Texas. The schools are managed by Academica, a Miami-based charter school management company. The Silver Palms campus at 23255 SW 115th Ave. is home to two schools serving students in kindergarten through 12th grade, records show. It is one of three Somerset sites in South Dade.
Somerset Principal Kerri Ann O’Sullivan said, “We are terribly saddened by this tragedy. Our hearts and prayers are with the victim’s family and everyone in our community impacted by this tragic event. The safety and well being of all students is of paramount importance to us.”
Ken Trump, a national bus safety expert who has trained South Florida school bus drivers, said they are taught the mechanics of driving vehicles, but need more training in other areas like crisis management, building relationships with kids and intervention.
“School bus drivers are often the first and last employees to see a student on a school day,” he said.
“Violence and conflict that happen in schools often start in neighborhoods and communities and the bus drivers are often going to be the first ones at risk of encountering that.”
Besides resources like security monitors and cameras, basic and ongoing training is needed for school bus drivers, whether they work for a district, charter or private company, he said.