Two weeks before 10-year-old Darnell Vinson shot himself in the hand and a friend in the chest, he was charged with using a gun to rob a 46-year-old woman.
Vinson, a 4-foot-8-inch, 75-pound fourth-grader, is the youngest person to be charged with a delinquency count of aggravated robbery that Franklin County prosecutors can recall. Even old-timers in the office were taken aback by allegations that a 10-year-old committed armed robbery.
"I've never charged one that young," said Jason Wood, the Columbus police detective who investigated the robbery.
Vinson is being held in the Franklin County Juvenile Detention Center, pending a June 15 trial on delinquency counts of robbery and aggravated robbery.
On Tuesday evening, he was wearing an electronic ankle bracelet to monitor his whereabouts because of the robbery charge. That's when, he told police, he found a handgun behind the duplex where he lives with his family at 389 S. Napoleon Ave. Vinson told police the gun discharged when he picked it up. The bullet passed through his right hand and struck 12-year-old Allen Carter in the chest.
Carter, who lives just down the street in the East Side neighborhood, was in fair condition yesterday at Children's Hospital. He has no juvenile record.
Vinson returned to court yesterday, accused of violating the terms of his release because he was outside the house at the time of the shooting. Juvenile Court Magistrate William Kirby ordered him held in the Juvenile Detention Center.
Kirby also ordered an evaluation to determine whether Vinson understands the trial process and can help in his defense. If Vinson is deemed too immature to understand court proceedings, the criminal charges would be dismissed. Prosecutors then likely would file a complaint asking the court to step in and order counseling and in-home services for Vinson and his family.
Detective Wood said Vinson pointed a handgun at a woman about 8:55 p.m. May 21 at the corner of Napoleon and Plymouth avenues and demanded her purse. He reportedly fled empty-handed when an unknown teenager intervened.
Wood said neighborhood talk led officers to Vinson, who admitted to the robbery and was charged May 22. He told police he used a BB gun, which officers have not found.
Vinson's mother, Lisa Durham, yesterday said a 16-year-old boy had the BB gun and coerced her son into approaching the victim.
Wood said Vinson never mentioned an accomplice.
Police have labeled the shooting incident as an accident and don't anticipate filing charges, but they haven't completed their investigation.
"The key element is speaking with the 12-year-old, and we have not been able to do that yet," Sgt. Christ Holzhauser said yesterday.
Durham said she believes her son's story about finding the gun beside a storage shed in the backyard.
Franklin County Children Services has been involved with Vinson's family since the year before his birth, said Kay Marshall, an agency spokeswoman. The agency's records indicate four cases involving the family during the decade, including one that was opened after the robbery arrest, but she declined to release any details.
Marshall said it did not appear that any of the cases resulted in children being removed from the home.