Ft. Meade, Florida - It was around this time last year, a few days before Christmas, that a family was gathering to celebrate the holiday in Ft. Meade when tragedy hit.
An eleven-year-old boy found a gun and accidentally shot and killed his ten-year-old cousin. Instead of celebrating the holiday, family members were faced with planning the young girl's funeral.
Family members say Miracle Johnson was a miracle. She was born prematurely, but thrived under the care of her great grandmother. Alvin Mitchell said, "The way that she was born, I think that she was a little less than a pound."
On December 23rd of last year, the great grandmother was in the kitchen and Miracle was playing with her young cousins in a bedroom. The cousins were visiting from out of town for the holiday when, detectives from the Polk County Sheriff's Office say, Miracle's cousin found a gun and fired one fatal shot that hit her in the head.
Miracle's uncle, Ivory Demetrius Johnson, owned the gun legally but, after the shooting, the sheriff of Polk County said he wanted some answers. Grady Judd said, "The number one question in my mind is why was the gun there and why did the children have access to the gun? If that gun was appropriately stored, Miracle would be alive today and alive on Christmas morning."
On Saturday, in the Robarts Arena Parking lot at 3000 Fruitville Road in Sarasota, some parents and grandparents gave up their guns in hopes of preventing another loss. They took part in a gun turn-in event.
Roy Sprinkle said, "I've had a rifle lying around my house for about 20 years and I've got 4-year-old twins and I thought it was time to just get it out of the house."
Among the weapons turned in were a sawed off shotgun and three grenades.
The Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight said safety was a big motivator for a lot of people. "We had a lady with four guns. She had a Tech 9 in a backpack that a grandson had left with her. She had them for two years in her closet and she's so appreciative for being able to turn those things in, get them out of her house, she didn't want them there. She knew eventually they could get into the hands of the grandkids."
140 guns were turned in. Those turning in guns may have also been motivated by what officials were giving them in exchange for the guns. They could choose from a $50 gift card from either Sports Authority, Sweetbay, Bealls, or Bealls Outlet.
The Sarasota County Sheriff's Office, Sarasota Police Department, and Sarasota NAACP held the event. No taxpayer dollars were used.
Tammie Fields, 10 Connects