Santiago’s family and friends have called the killing a freak accident.
‘He said, “Daddy, I’m sorry. It was an accident. I’m sorry, Dad,” his stepfather, Vernon Williams, told WSVN 7 News, adding: ‘I can’t fault anyone for this here. It happened.’
‘He didn’t mean to kill his sister,’ family friend Shamara Perpall told the station.
The accused shooter’s life had already been marred by gun violence even before the Tuesday night tragedy. He told the radio station WLRN, in a series on young gun violence survivors, that he himself had been to jail 18 times, mostly for robberies.
In December, Santiago was shot in the leg in his driveway, the station reported. His friend was shot in the head and nearly died.
Eleven months earlier, Santiago’s younger brother Martwan was shot four times, according to the report. One bullet went through his spine and paralyzed him from the waist down.
Local leaders ripped the killing as an example of why Florida should change its gun access laws. The Sunshine State had by far the highest number of people with concealed weapons carry permits, about 1.4 million, as of March 2015, Politifact reported.
‘Criminally or accidentally, the carnage continues. A 13-year old middle schooler is latest victim of heartbreaking, reckless gun violence,’ tweeted Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho.
‘Accidental but not acceptable. In the streets, at home, easy access to guns is, itself, indicting. How many more will it take?’ he added, using the hashtag #EnoughCarnage.