The mother and father of an 11-year-old girl who recently shot herself in the knee are facing several child abuse charges after Santa Fe police say they found multiple firearms and ammunition in their home — within easy reach of a child.
According to criminal complaints filed late last week in Santa Fe County Magistrate Court, the girl had found a loaded handgun on a couch in the family’s home at Sangre de Cristo Apartments on Aug. 8. She thought it was a black toy Nerf gun, the complaints say, and as she was playing with it, the weapon discharged.
Jennifer Segura, 29, and Armando Torres, 30, are charged with one count each of abandonment or abuse of a child resulting in great bodily harm, three counts each of abandonment or abuse of a child and one count each of tampering with evidence.
Torres also is facing a charge of trafficking a controlled substance.
An initial report of the incident said a neighbor told officers he had had seen the girl playing outside with her brothers. She then headed back toward her apartment, bent down to pick something up and fell to the ground after the sound of a pop, the neighbor said.
According to the criminal complaint, the neighbor told police he was standing in the apartment’s doorway with his dog when he heard the gun go off and saw the girl fall. When the neighbor asked if the girl was OK, Segura told him the child was fine and closed the front door. A few minutes later, the neighbor said, he saw Torres carry the girl out of the apartment, followed by Segura and the couple’s three other children.
The neighbor said he did not see anyone else leave the apartment.
Officials have removed all four children from the couple’s home, according to the complaint. It was unclear whether the children were placed in state custody or with a relative.
Segura and Torres initially were cooperative with police, the complaints say, and “told responding officers that a friend had left a handgun on the sofa and their daughter got it and shot herself.”
Although, according to police, the pair provided conflicting accounts of the incident.
Torres “was adamant that a friend, Daniel Medrano, was at the apartment and the gun belonged to him,” officers wrote in the complaints. But Torres could not provide any contact information for Medrano.
The girl and Segura told police no one else was in the apartment at the time of the incident.
In a phone interview last week, Segura told The New Mexican the girl was recovering at home after being treated at a local hospital and that she wasn’t certain who owned the gun her daughter had found.
Officers did not find the gun that injured the girl or the shell casing inside the apartment. But they did see several Nerf guns.
During a search of the couple’s vehicle and home, the complaints say, officers also found a cache of firearms and ammunition. “Various calibers of ammunition were found throughout the home and within reach of small children.”
The complaints list the following:
- A sawed-off shotgun on the floor inside a closet.
- A black Glock 9 mm handgun box holding a 9 mm magazine and a glass pipe near the entrance to the couple’s bedroom.
- Boxes of ammunition on the bedroom windowsill and in the living room.
- Four rifles in the couple’s SUV.
Officers also found 24 grams of heroin on a dining room table, the complaints say.
The criminal complaints say Segura told officers she owns two guns, a pink revolver and a black 9 mm pistol, but had not been able to find the pink revolver since the family had moved into the apartment months earlier. She also said she typically keeps the 9 mm pistol on top of the refrigerator or on the counter and that she owns the weapons for self-defense.
The couple had taken their children to a gun range to learn how to use firearms, Segura told police.
The accidental shooting occurred in the wake of three fatal shootings of Northern New Mexico teens.
The most recent death, the shooting of 18-year-old Santa Fe High basketball star Fedonta “JB” White, spurred community leaders to put out a recent call for adults to support young people — and to help keep firearms out of the hands of children.
“We want to lock guns up. We want to get guns off the street,” Mayor Alan Webber said in a public talk.
Santa Fe police Chief Andrew Padilla also weighed in. He said parents need to hold themselves and their children accountable and “truly be involved in their lives.”
Police spokesman Greg Gurulé did not respond to questions about whether the rash of gun violence and officials’ comments on gun safety and parents’ accountability had influenced the department’s decision to file charges against Torres and Segura.
The couple were released on their own recognizance Monday. They will be allowed to have contact with their children if the state Children, Youth and Families Department approves and supervises the visits.
Both are scheduled to appear in court Sept. 9.