An 18-year-old was arrested after Bradenton police say he admitted to firing what they called an “unprovoked” shot into a vehicle passing by, and the bullet struck a 7-year-old girl.
According to police, officers were called to the 2200 block of Manatee Avenue East around 4:25 p.m. Saturday after a 7-year-old girl, who was a passenger in her mother’s vehicle, was shot by an unknown person.
Axel B. Ramirez, 18, of Bradenton, has been charged in connection with the shooting, according to a news release from police.
Bradenton Police Lt. Brian Thiers said during a news conference Tuesday that the mother’s vehicle was in motion, turning onto Manatee Avenue East when her daughter was shot in the left shoulder.
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
“The mother of the victim had no knowledge of anything. She said all of a sudden she made the turn onto Manatee Avenue and her child started screaming. And when she looked back she realized, seeing blood, that something obviously had happened,” Thiers said.
He later added that detectives have no reason to believe the incident occurred anywhere other than that area.
The girl was taken to Manatee Memorial Hospital where she was treated for a non-life threatening injury, what Theirs called “more of a surface wound,” and released about an hour later Saturday, he said.
Thiers called the incident “unusual” and “unprovoked”. He said there were no other reports of shots fired that day and witnesses reported hearing only one shot.
Police collected surveillance video and spoke to those who heard the shot. Through surveillance, police identified a white SUV that turned onto 21st Street East at the same time the girl’s mother’s vehicle was turning onto Manatee Avenue, Thiers said. Based on the trajectory, police determined that was “the only plausible way that a bullet could have come from.”
With the video footage, investigators went back to the area and spoke with witnesses. They learned a vehicle “very similar” to the SUV’s description with “distinguishing features” belonged to a woman who allowed her son to drive it frequently, Thiers said.
Around 2 p.m. Monday, detectives in the area doing surveillance spotted the SUV and tried to initiate a traffic stop, but the vehicle took off, according to Thiers. After a “brief pursuit,” four people jumped out for the SUV and ran, he said. All four were apprehended and brought to the Bradenton police station.
One of the people in the SUV was Ramirez, according to police. The other three, Thiers said, were juveniles who gave conflicting statements to police about what happened Saturday. All were being cooperative in the investigation and it remains unclear if any of them realized someone was hit when the gun was fired, he said.
Witnesses who saw the pursuit pointed detectives to a trashcan where two guns had been dumped, according to Thiers.
Video surveillance and witnesses led detectives to Ramirez. He has no connection to the girl or her family, police said.
Police noted in a news release that Ramirez admitted to firing a gun into the vehicle that had the girl inside as it drove by. Thiers said Ramirez initially told police the gun “went off,” and confessed soon after learning a child was hit by the bullet.
But Thiers said that does not make sense to investigators.
“Middle of the afternoon, a random shot into a vehicle doesn’t make sense to us. Playing around with a gun is a possibility; showing off for your friends is a possibility. I don’t think there’s a criminal element. I do not believe that he intentionally meant to shoot that car, but I don’t believe the fact that the gun just accidentally went off either, so that’s what we’re trying to establish now,” Thiers said.
Ramirez is facing charges of aggravated battery with a firearm and shooting into an occupied vehicle
Surveillance video crucial, police say
Thiers said Tuesday that without surveillance footage, this case likely would not be solved, as it led them to the white SUV. Before the footage, they had “nothing.”
The surveillance video released by the police department Tuesday shows a white SUV turning left in the last few seconds of the video in the far edge of the screen.
“In a criminal investigation such as this, we needed time to have time to get our ducks in a row, and thankfully we did because we were able to recover a firearm that we are very, very convinced is the shooter’s gun,” Thiers said.
Information on the shooting, which occurred Saturday, was not released publicly by police until Monday on social media. Theirs said in that time, investigators were able to find the vehicle, those inside and “edge into making an arrest without them destroying evidence.”
Not trying to get rid of the evidence, he said, is another reason he does not believe those in the vehicle knew the gunshot struck anyone.
Thiers declined to comment on whether police had any previous contact with Ramirez or any of the juveniles in the vehicle, as those are juvenile records. Ramirez turned 18 this month, he noted.
The investigation is ongoing and additional charges could be pending.
Anyone with information on the incident is asked to call detective Jeff Beckley at 941-932-9356 or email tips to email@example.com.
Tips can also be sent to CrimeStoppers anonymously by calling 1-866-634-8477 (TIPS) or online at manateecrimestoppers.com.
The girl was quickly treated and released for the non-life threatening injury to her shoulder, according to Theirs, but a few inches could have created a different case for detectives.
“Three inches. I would say 3 inches give or take, and this would have been a completely different story,” Thiers said Tuesday.
He called her an “amazing” girl who is fortunate to be alive.
“She’s the toughest kid I think I’ve ever met,” Thiers said.