SAN ANTONIO – The older brother of a 12-year-old boy who accidentally shot himself in the head last week is now charged with manslaughter in connection to his death, according to San Antonio police.
Justin Johnson, 21, was arrested Saturday after police said he tried to grab the gun from his younger brother, Cojuan Singleton, with his finger on the trigger before it fired, fatally striking him in the head. The gun was found to have belonged to Johnson, and authorities said it was illegally modified.
He claimed he had purchased the gun for protection when he was living on the streets before moving in with his mother, according to an arrest affidavit.
Officers were first called to Johnson’s residence in the 1100 block of Callaghan Road for a report of shots fired on Nov. 13.
However, after arriving, police discovered Johnson’s brother had gotten ahold of a loaded gun and accidentally shot himself in the head. The 12-year-old was taken to University Hospital for further treatment, but was later pronounced dead.
Johnson initially told officers he was watching YouTube videos in the living room when he saw his younger brother had picked up the pistol.
He said before he could react, he heard the gunshot and Singleton had collapsed on the couch, according to police documents.
Johnson and Singleton’s sister had also been home at the time of the incident, but she was in her bedroom on her phone and didn’t see or hear anything until the gun went off, police said.
According to officials, Johnson claimed he kept the gun on a high shelf in his closet but “couldn’t explain how his brother got the weapon.”
When interviewed later on by another detective, Johnson changed his story. He said he had been cleaning the gun on the couch with Singleton sitting next to him.
He told officers he had removed the gun’s magazine and set it down between him and his younger brother when he loaded more bullets into it. That’s when Singleton picked up the gun and accidentally shot himself in the head, according to an arrest affidavit.
Johnson told police there shouldn’t have been a round in the gun’s chamber because “he never racked the slide back.”
But as officers continued to question him, he later confessed that when he tried to grab the weapon back from his brother, the gun went off.
The gun was ultimately in Johnson’s hand and his finger was on the trigger, causing the gun to fire, police said.
Johnson still insisted the shooting was an accident.
Arrest documents said a firearms expert and detective determined the pistol was an illegal weapon, given the modifications that were added to it that allowed the pistol to fire in a fully automatic mode, making it “unpredictable and unsafe.”
Johnson’s bond is set at $45,000 and his pre-hearing is set for Dec. 22.
Neighbors living near the apartment where the shooting happened are still in disbelief after the incident.
“It was a tragic and sad thing,” said Robert Herd, a neighbor. “Like I always tell my wife, we don’t even buy my kids toy guns. They are not to be played with. It is something that is really serious. If we don’t take precaution and keep an eye on our kids, things like this can happen.”
Herd said he knows the pain Cojuan’s and Johnson’s family could be going through.
“I lost my brother a while back to gun violence and to lose a loved one is never easy,” Herd said. “It is always hard. Especially when you lose a loved one. He was young and didn’t have time to live his life. This is two lives that haven’t had a chance to live life.”
He had these words of wisdom for Johnson, who is still behind bars.
“Just keep your head up,” Herd said. “It was a tragic, sad accident. Don’t let yourself down and at the end of the day, God makes the final decisions. Just keep your head up and I am praying for you.”