By Gary Ridley, originally published by MLive, The Flint Journal, May 10, 2016
FLINT, MI – A Flint man has pleaded guilty after he said he inadvertently fired the fatal shots that killed his 11-year-old cousin.
Tovonte Kyjuan Jones pleaded guilty Tuesday, May 10, to involuntary manslaughter following the March 2015 death of 11-year-old William Lee Coppage. Jones initially faced a charge of second-degree murder and felony firearm, but those charges were dismissed as part of the plea agreement.
“It was a very fair disposition,” said Jones’ attorney, Frank J. Manley. “There’s no question it was accidental.”
Prosecutors charged Jones, 25, after police were called to the 1800 block of Barks Street about 6:15 p.m. March 13, 2015, and found Coppage had been shot.
Coppage’s 15-year-old sister testified previously during a preliminary exam that she and her three brothers were outside playing when Jones arrived at their home.
She said Jones played basketball and wrestled with Coppage prior to the shooting. Jones then retrieved the gun to show it to the girl’s aunt, who lived next door.
The girl said she and Coppage were standing near the porch when she heard a gunshot.
After being hit, Coppage went onto the home’s porch and collapsed.
Family members tried to help Coppage as they waited for emergency responders to arrive. Jones also went onto the porch to see to his young cousin.
“He was telling William to breathe,” the girl said.
Manley said Jones admitted to mishandling the firearm, inadvertently shooting his cousin.
“It certainly appeared to us that it was an accident after having it reviewed by a number of different people,” Leyton said.
The plea agreement calls for Jones to serve one year in jail and five years of probation. The charge will be reduced to reckless discharge of a firearm causing death if he successfully completes probation.
Jones can withdraw his plea if Genesee Circuit Judge Judith Fullerton decides not to use the sentencing agreement. Manslaughter is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
He had no criminal record and possessed a concealed pistol license at the time of the shooting.