Oscar Ramos, 35, was booked on felony charges of criminal storage of a firearm in connection with the apparent self-inflicted gunshot death of a 2-year-old boy Saturday in a northwest Fresno home, Police Chief Jerry Dyer said Monday.
Jace Alexander was found with a gunshot wound to the head Saturday afternoon at the home in the 300 block of West Audubon Drive and died after he was taken to Valley Children's Hospital.
Dyer said investigators learned that Jace shot himself after he found Ramos' unsecured Sig Sauer semi-automatic pistol. California law requires that firearms be kept away from children with a safe, gun box or other locking device. Penalties for not doing so can range up to three years in prison.
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"This was a death that was completely avoidable," the chief told a news conference called to report the arrest of Ramos. "It's a responsibility to our children to store (firearms) in a safe and secure manner."
Jace was the son of Jonathan Alexander, who shares the home near the San Joaquin Bluffs with Jena Moya and Ramos, said Dyer. Jonathan Alexander was at work Saturday while Moya was taking care of Jace. Moya and Ramos were in another room when they heard a loud "pop," and found Jace on the floor with the head wound. The pistol was on a nearby bed. According to police, Moya was unable to get through to 911 and told Ramos to do so. For unknown reasons, he hesitated, and Moya took the cell phone from him and made the call, about five to 10 minutes after the discovery of the shooting, said Dyer.
Ramos, who Dyer said "took full responsibility" for the deadly incident, told investigators that he had last seen the gun the evening before on a home entertainment center. The chief said that Jonathan Alexander on several previous occasions had cautioned Ramos not to leave the weapon unsecured. Ramos had a gun safe in his bedroom.
Ramos also was charged with possession of high-capacity magazines capable of holding more than 10 cartridges.
Investigators said the gun was last registered to someone in Van Nuys. Police are investigating how it came into Ramos' hands, but added that it doesn't appear that Ramos is prohibited from owning firearms.
In a previous case in 2011 involving a child, a Fresno man pleaded no contest to a felony charge of criminal storage of a firearm after a 6-year-old girl was shot and killed by her toddler brother.
Jarred Dubois, then, 34, was sentenced to three years probation. Fresno police said he left a loaded gun under his bed that his 2-year-old son found and then used to fatally shoot Emily Lavender, 6. Emily Lavender was Dubois' stepdaughter. The shooting took place in front of the girl's two sisters in the 8500 block of North Boyd Avenue.
Because of the conviction, Dubois' home was open to search under probation terms, and officers in 2012 found seven magazines and 80 rounds of ammunition there. He was taken into custody, and pleaded no contest to a felony charge of possessing ammunition — banned because of the conviction.
Probation officials initially sought a three-year prison term for Dubois, but Judge Jonathan Conklin granted probation while ordering him to perform 500 hours of community service.
In a 2015 case in Fresno, a Madera County Sheriff's lieutenant was not charged by the Fresno County District Attorney's Office when Lt. Patrick Majeski's 10-year-old daughter shot her younger sister, 8, with the deputy's firearm. The office in 2017 ruled the incident did not meet the "elements of a crime," according to Assistant District Attorney Steve Wright.
According to Fresno police, the shooting happened while the lieutenant was getting ready for work and left the firearm on a bed, where the girl found and "manipulated it."