The 18-year-old Bradenton man police say shot a child over the weekend wrote a note apologizing to the victim’s family while in custody, documents show.
A 7-year-old girl suffered a non-life threatening injury to her shoulder when a bullet struck her while she was riding in her mother’s car on Saturday. Police said her mother’s white Chevrolet Impala was turning from 21st Street East onto Manatee Avenue when a white Dodge Durango turned off Manatee Avenue onto 21st Street East. That’s when, police say, the shot was fired.
The girl was treated at a hospital and released an hour later, police said.
On Sunday, police obtained surveillance footage showing the moment the shooting occurred. Investigators doing surveillance in the area found the vehicle Monday and arrested 18-year-old Axel Benito Ramirez, who faces charges of aggravated battery with a firearm and shooting into an occupied vehicle in connection with the shooting.
According to the probable cause affidavit, Benito Ramirez “took full responsibility for the shooting” and wrote an apology to the victim’s family, asking for forgiveness.
“I’m very sorry for this incident that has occurred. I didn’t mean to shoot anyone. I was playing around with a gun and it accidentally shot. I didn’t realize that it had struck anybody. I am very sorry. I hope you can forgive me about this incident,” he wrote.
After being read his rights, Benito Ramirez told police he was riding in the white Durango with a black firearm and was playing with the gun when it “just went off,” according to the affidavit.
Police Lt. Brian Thiers said at a news conference Tuesday that investigators are not buying that the “gun just went off,” but they do not believe Benito Ramirez intended to shoot the Impala or the girl.
“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,” Thiers said.
When shown a picture of the gun found by police after Benito Ramirez ran from the attempted traffic stop leading up to his arrest, he identified it as the same gun he had on Saturday, according to the affidavit.
Police also questioned the 17-year-old driver of the Durango after the pursuit ended. He told investigators he was the driver of the Durango and Benito Ramirez, who he said was a passenger in the SUV on Saturday when the shooting occurred, had a black gun, according to the affidavit.
The 17-year-old went on to say while turning the corner onto 21st Street East and passing the white Chevrolet Impala, Benito Ramirez reached over him and shot out the driver’s side window. He said Benito Ramirez “did not mean to do it,” they both “panicked” and drove through a yard before going into the trailer park.
In surveillance video collected by police, the Durango is seen driving through a field that connects Fifth Avenue Drive East and Sixth Avenue East before disappearing down an alley of a trailer park, according to the affidavit.
Police were told by trailer park personnel that the Durango was in the 600 block of 22nd Place East. It was found by investigators Monday in the 2700 block of Manatee Avenue East, where they tried to perform a traffic stop on the SUV because it only had one working tail light, the affidavit stated.
However, the driver of the Durango did not stop, and police started a pursuit.
Thiers said Tuesday that four people, including Benito Ramirez, jumped out for the SUV and ran. All four were apprehended and brought to the Bradenton police station and all were cooperating with the investigation.
Benito Ramirez, who was in the front passenger seat, was seen by police carrying a pink case as he ran. He was taken into custody in a yard in the 2300 block of Eighth Avenue East after jumping several fences, according to the affidavit.
A witness told police he saw Benito Ramirez throw something into a green trash can. When investigators looked, they found a pink case and a .40-caliber handgun.
Police said Benito Ramirez has no connection to the girl or her family.
Thiers said additional charges may be pending, but there were no further developments in the case as of Wednesday morning.
Benito Ramirez is being held in the Manatee County jail on a $57,500 bond, jail records show.