18-month-old baby girl fatally shot in the head in Florida

CJ Nelson Jr. in a 2022 booking photo (inset via Flagler County Jail), (R) Ranwood Lane home in Flagler County, Fla., where an 18-month-old girl was fatally shot in the head (Google Maps)

Deputies in Florida were called to respond late Sunday over Labor Day weekend after receiving a “frantic” 911 call reporting that a baby girl was somehow fatally shot in the head at a home.

According to the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office, the shooting took place before midnight on Sunday at a rental home at 2 Ranwood Lane in Palm Coast where multiple adults — eight total — were present.

Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly, offering “condolences to the family and friends of this little girl,” called the latest shooting a “tragic situation.”

“While God has a new little angel, we will investigate this incident along with the State Attorney’s Office Homicide Investigation Unit until all facts are known. There is no threat to the community,” the sheriff said. “The incident was contained inside this residence and all persons present or involved have been identified.”

A 911 caller frantically detailed that an 18-month-old baby girl was shot in the head. Tragically, the baby was pronounced dead at the hospital thereafter, authorities said.

At the time of the initial press release on the incident, law enforcement had not made any allegation that a crime occurred and hadn’t made any arrests. Authorities also said it was possible the shooting was an accident.

More Law&Crime coverage: Woman pressed loaded gun to ‘scared’ 4-year-old girl’s chest, pulled trigger, and claimed ‘firearms safety’ lesson, prosecutor says

“Major Case Unit detectives are still actively gathering evidence and speaking to witnesses. No arrests have been made at this time,” the sheriff’s office said. “This death may have been accidental; however, the investigation is still active and ongoing with the assistance of FDLE’s Crime Scene Investigators.”

The sheriff addressed the case in more detail Monday afternoon and said that C.J. Nelson Jr., whom he described as a 21-year-old Black male with a prior offense involving a firearm, was arrested on a probation violation.

Staly said that Nelson is a person of interest in the shooting.

“He has not been charged with this death — yet,” the sheriff said.

The sheriff referred to Florida’s criminal culpable negligence statute, along with manslaughter, when discussing possible charges.

It’s unclear if Nelson is a relative of the child, but the statute also says an accidental shooting by a family member of a minor must be investigated for at least a week before such individual can be arrested in direct connection with the shooting:

When any minor child is accidentally shot by another family member, no arrest shall be made pursuant to this subsection prior to 7 days after the date of the shooting. With respect to any parent or guardian of any deceased minor, the investigating officers shall file all findings and evidence with the state attorney’s office with respect to violations of this subsection. The state attorney shall evaluate such evidence and shall take such action as he or she deems appropriate under the circumstances and may file an information against the appropriate parties.

Nelson has been booked for allegedly violating his probation, jail records show.

CJ Nelson Jr.

CJ Nelson Jr. pictured in a Sept. 4 booking photo (Flagler County Jail)

Staly said he was not ruling out culpability for the other adults in the home, but he reiterated that Nelson is the person of interest.

“It would be a lot easier if everybody told us the truth,” Staly said of the other adults, including the victim’s biological mother. The sheriff said the child’s biological father was not at the scene.

“The child did not touch the firearm,” the sheriff said, identifying the weapon as an “American Tactical multi-caliber assault pistol.”

“We have had two prior calls to this home in 2023 — one was for a stolen vehicle and one was a 911 investigation,” the sheriff said. “Since 2010, we have responded to 11 additional calls to this home, mostly civil service, various follow-ups, a welfare check, and a warrant service.”

The sheriff further said that cannabis and a “white powdery substance,” believed to be either cocaine or heroin, were found in the home, but he clarified that investigators do not view the shooting as “drug-related at this point.”

In one tragic case from 2021, a 2-year-old boy gained access to a firearm and shot his mother during a Zoom call, leading to charges against the gun owner for leaving the gun out “without the supervision required by law, in a rude, careless, angry, or threatening manner.”

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18-month-old baby girl fatally shot in the head in Florida

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