The mother of a 13-year-old girl fatally shot on a private school bus in Homestead in front of her little sister on Wednesday said she forgives the teen shooting suspect but wants him to pay.
"You know, I forgive him, but he has to pay for what he did," said Ady DeJesus. "There needs to be justice."
DeJesus demanded answers in the slaying of her daughter, Lourdes Guzman-DeJesus, the same day officials said prosecutors planned to charge the 15-year-old suspect as an adult.
Jordyn Alexander Howe was ordered held at Miami-Dade's juvenile assessment center on charges of manslaughter and carrying a concealed firearm in Guzman-DeJesus' death, authorities said.
Although police say the shooting was an accident, criminal defense attorney Jonathan Meltz said crimes, even accidental, warrant a punishment.
"Let's say, in the light most favorable to the young man, he didn't choose to shoot that gun, but he did choose maybe to bring it on the bus, there's got to be some sort of responsibility," he said.
NBC 6 South Florida spoke with Amanda Pilkenton, who lives across the street from Howe's Homestead home.
"I'm kind of concerned what could have happened at school -- maybe he was being bullied -- that's what I am wondering, is why," she said.
Guzman-DeJesus' mother was worried as well.
"How did it happen? How did he have it on him? How did nobody notice?" DeJesus asked during a press conference, as she cried and appeared shaken. "I want answers myself."
Guzman, known as Jina to her family and friends, was shot while riding a private school bus about 6:45 a.m. Tuesday in the area of Southwest 296th Street and Southwest 137th Avenue in Homestead, police said. Eight other children, including Guzman-DeJesus' 7-year-old sister, were on the bus at the time of the shooting.
DeJesus said she found out about the shooting from her 7-year-old daughter, who phoned her.
"She just started screaming, 'Jina is hurt.' And then the bus driver started talking to me. That's all," DeJesus said. "She was just scared. She was screaming, 'Mom, Jina.' She just kept screaming."
DeJesus said her 7-year-old daughter remembers certain details about the shooting.
"She only saw her sister bleeding. She only heard her screaming," DeJesus said. "Those were the only things. She only knows that her sister was shot."
DeJesus and other family members said they didn't know additional details about shooting, including whether Guzman-DeJesus was a friend of the shooting suspect. Much of the information the family knows so far has come from the news media, relatives said.
DeJesus said she was willing to forgive the suspect, because it is what her daughter would have wanted.
"I forgive him because I know that Lourdes was a person who loved people very much, who helps everyone," she said. "And I know that she wouldn’t want me to hate him."
Family member Jose Guevarez said, "There are other kids involved in this situation. Obviously, there are other kids in the house and they are all suffering. They know their sister is not there. She's gone. She's not coming back."
Ady DeJesus described her daughter as the “most wonderful girl in the whole wide world.” She said her daughter, a student at Palm Glades Preparatory Academy, was very smart, nice and happy.
Wednesday morning, Howe waived his right to appear at a hearing in juvenile court, where he was represented by a public defender. According to Miami-Dade Clerk of Courts spokeswoman Eunice Sigler, the state plans to prosecute Howe as an adult. The judge set the next court date for 1:30 p.m. Dec. 11.
Howe's mother couldn't be reached for comment despite a message left at a listed number.
Howe's friend, Eduardo Rojas, said he never saw Howe carry or talk about weapons.
"I thought that couldn't be him," Rojas said. "He's not that person."
Rojas described Howe, a student at Somerset Academy Silver Palms, as "very intelligent."
"It's just so weird that someone so innocent, quiet and shy would do such a thing," Rojas said.
Terry Chavez, a spokesperson for the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office, wouldn't comment on whether anyone else would face charges but said they're still investigating the shooting.
"It's very complicated," Chavez said. "There are a lot of things left to take care of."
According to an arrest form, the children were on their way to school when Howe took the firearm out of his backpack and displayed it. The gun went off, hitting Guzman-DeJesus, a student at Palm Glades Preparatory Academy.
Based on the findings so far, "it appears to have been an accident," Miami-Dade Police spokeswoman Aida Fina-Milan said.
Guzman-DeJesus was taken to Miami Children's Hospital, where she later died, police said. No one else was injured, and Howe was taken into custody, officials said.
Parents of students at the charter schools contract the private school bus to transport students. Phone messages left with a number listed on the side of the bus were not returned. The school bus, operated by Yelimar & Portieles, was not equipped with video surveillance equipment, officials said.
At the shooting site, friends created a small memorial for Guzman, complete with flowers, candles, stuffed animals and messages for the teenager.
Students at Palm Glades Preparatory Academy on Wednesday were seen tying balloons to a fence as a tribute to their slain classmate.
"I started crying myself. I really did,” said Joseph Webb, who attended the somber ceremony. “When they started to play the music, it was like, ‘Wow.’ It hit me.”
Guzman-DeJesus got along with everybody, classmates said. "She was like a sister to me," said seventh-grader Daniel LaRosa. "Nobody would ever get in a fight with her."
LaRosa remembered Guzman-DeJesus as being funny. "I just know it's gonna be different. Like, I'm not seeing her anywhere else ... that's just a nightmare," LaRosa said. "I just know I gotta stay up and don't put my head down."
Henry Martinez, an eighth-grader, said he didn't know Guzman-DeJesus but brought white balloons to school in her memory. "I care," he said.