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Man charged in accidental shooting death of niece appears in court

Cops: 6-year-old A'letha Burke killed while handling unsecured gun

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The man charged with leaving a gun unlocked and in reach of his 6-year-old niece was in court on Thursday.

Erik Williams, 35, is charged for child neglect, failing to safely store a gun and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Williams' niece, 6-year-old A'letha Burke was killed Tuesday after accidentally shooting herself in Williams' home.

In court, Williams' attorney argued that Sanford Police do not have evidence that the gun was his.

"If the police officer had said 'Did you put that gun there or is that your gun?' and he said, 'Yes,' I'd sit down and shut up," said the public defender. "I don't see anything in this police report that in any way indicates that Mr. Williams ever had or ever told any police officer or anybody else that he ever at any time had possession of this gun."

News 6 asked the Sanford police chief how the department plans to deal with the issue of convicts being in possession of guns.

"I think this would frustrate any citizen that someone who has or is a convicted felon and has possession of a firearm," said Chief Cecil Smith, Sanford Police Department.

Smith also said that the law limits their ability to conduct searches based on suspicion. The department said that it relies heavily on members of the public to report a convicted felon, if the person becomes aware they are in possession of a gun.

"It's tough for us to break into someone's house and say, 'You know what, we know you are a convicted felon and you've got a gun here.' We don't want to get into any scenario of that nature," said Smith.

Sanford police are offering a safe gun storage class on March 9 from 4-6 p.m. The department also said that it is planning a gun buy-back day in April. On that day, anyone from the public will be able to drop off a gun, no questions asked.

Erik Williams was also arrested in 2006 for being a convicted felon in possession of a gun.

A'letha's family is also raising money for the girl's burial.

The owner of Kevin's Corner Store in Sanford said that A'letha's family has been a frequent customer of his for years.

"I've been knowing the family for years. They've been coming and spending their money at my stores for a few years now. I've been knowing them for 10 years," said Kevin Shaw.

A donation jar is front and center on the check-out counter at the store.

A'letha's mother posted on social media that all of the proceeds will go towards probably honoring her daughter.

"You know how the kids are. So sweet and you know I'd always, used to offer her candy, ice cream. She used to love ice cream and stuff," said Shaw. "I feel great you know. Whatever helps you know. It's hard you know these times when something like this happens"

Family members tried blocking questions from reporters as Williams walked from the Seminole County jail.

"Talk to my lawyer, got to talk to my lawyer," Williams yelled out to reporters.

A'letha, a kindergartner at Wicklow Elementary School, was playing in the living room when she found the gun under a couch. She picked it up, shooting herself in the shoulder, the bullet traveled downward, killing her.

Williams, her babysitter, drove her to the hospital. Thursday night, the convicted felon who never should have had a gun, wouldn't say why he had it in that spot.

"Talk to my lawyer," he repeated.

Williams did pause for a moment to answer one question as he entered the car. When asked if he felt bad, family members yelled, "No comment."

But he said, "Yeah, I feel bad."

Williams was released on a $20,000 bond.


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