Teen arrested after toddler dies in shooting on Alaska St.

Published: Aug. 29, 2022 at 5:51 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 30, 2022 at 6:14 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - The Savannah Police Department is investigating a shooting that killed a toddler.

According to the police department, a shooting occurred inside a home on Alaska Street around 4:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 29. Officers found 2-year-old Lauren Barton suffering from gunshot wounds. She was taken to the hospital where she died from her injuries.

A 16-year-old boy was arrested after police say he fled from the scene after the shooting. He was taken into custody without incident. He is charged with second degree murder and second degree cruelty to children.

The first court appearance Tuesday for the 16-year-old suspect was brief, and those in the courtroom didn’t even get to see the monitor showing him in the video conference room at the juvenile detention center.

Also, no details were given in court about the circumstances that led to the shooting.

What we do know is the teen hasn’t had a chance yet to talk to the public defenders’ office or hire a private attorney. Also, Recorders Court Chief Judge Tammy Stokes said a plea wasn’t requested at Tuesday’s hearing.

The teen’s mother and father were in the courtroom to listen to the proceeding. WTOC has learned from the family of the 16-year-old that the toddler who was shot and killed is his girlfriend’s niece. Family members of the teen and toddler have both told WTOC they believe the shooting was an accident. Police have not confirmed that information.

Judge Stokes did set the next hearing date for October, where a determination will be made if the case will be heard by a grand jury.

The Savannah Police Department said the shooting remains under investigation.

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson was just one of the local leaders calling for accountability and change when it comes to gun-related deaths in the community.

Mayor Johnson said he spent the greater part of Monday evening working alongside police and hospital staff notifying the 2-year-old victim’s family, including her mother and father, that she’d died from her injury.

“To tell a grandmother, grandfather, aunts and uncles that their beautiful baby who was the light of their lives, was no longer here,” Mayor Johnson said.

Mayor Johnson also emphasized that he wants to know where the 16-year-old got the gun, adding whoever it belonged to that he wants that person prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

As we’ve seen dozens of other times this year, a local church is recognizing the young life lost to gunfire with a ribbon on their front fencing. The administrator of Asbury Memorial Church has been doing this since the mass shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston back in 2015.

The lighter orange, like the one tied to their fence today, denotes victims younger than 18.

“When you’re dealing with a situation like this, it can almost get to a point where it feels hopeless,” Asbury Memorial Church administrator Randy Canady said. “And then trying to console the parents of all of these lives, the family members, their friends…it’s tough.”

Canady says the clergy and faith-based community is tight knit in Savannah, and works to help those affected when lives are lost.