Man Sentenced After 3-year-old Shot at Checkers

By: Angelica Alvarez, Garin Flowers; Julie Montanaro Email
By: Angelica Alvarez, Garin Flowers; Julie Montanaro Email

UPDATED 4.24.2012 by Julie Montanaro

A man accused of leaving a loaded gun in a car with a toddler will spend six months in jail for it.

The three year old found the gun and accidentally shot himself.

It all happened in the parking lot of the Checkers on Lake Bradford Road in November 2011.

Prosecutors say luckily the child has made a full recovery.

"According to his mother, he's made a full recovery. He's a totally healthy toddler. Obviously he's going to have the scars of this injury for the rest of his life, but otherwise he's completely recovered from his injuries," prosecutor Jack Campbell said.

Rontrail Spencer recently entered a plea to child abuse and concealed weapons charges. He was sentenced to 6 months in jail and 10 years on probation.

"We're certainly going to keep an eye on him for the next ten years to see if he continues to have firearms or continues to be lawless in his behavior, but we also didn't feel like a maximum sentence at this time, for an injury he did not intend to occur, was appropriate. We were trying to be both compassionate with the sentence from this point, but also recognize the severity of what could have happened and what did happen," Campbell said.

UPDATE: November 24, 2011 - Noon -

The 3-year-old boy injured on Monday, November 21, is still recovering from a gunshot wound to his stomach.

Rontrail Spencer is charged with Child Abuse With a Firearm and Carrying a Concealed firearm.

Police say Spencer threw his gun, which was in a bag, in the back seat of a car next to the toddler. According to the report, the gun went off, shooting the child.


UPDATE: November 23, 2011 - Noon -

Tallahassee Police have made an arrest in what they've called an accidental shooting of a three-year-old at a fast food restaurant.

TPD says this man, Rontrail Spencer, turned himself in on charges of child abuse with a firearm, and carrying a concealed firearm.

The little boy was wounded as he sat in a car parked outside a Checkers Restaurant on the corner of Jackson Bluff and Lake Bradford Road in Tallahassee on Monday 11/21/11.

Arrest papers say Spencer left a gun and a bag in the car moments before the shooting.

The child was shot in the abdomen and had to undergo surgery to repair his internal organs, but he is expected to recover. We'll have more information tonight on Eyewitness News.


UPDATE: November 22, 2011

The Criminal Investigations Unit has obtained the attached arrest warrant for Rontrail D. Spencer in regards to this case.

Mr. Spencer is charged with:

Child Abuse With a Firearm One Count
Carrying a Concealed firearm One Count

Mr. Spencer turned himself in and was transported to the Leon County Jail.

On November 21st, 2011 at 4:52p.m., the Tallahassee Police Department received a 911 call in reference to an injured child at the Checkers Restaurant on Jackson Bluff Road. Upon arrival, responding officers found a three year-old boy suffering from a gunshot wound. The boy was transported to a local hospital for further treatment.

Arrest papers show that the three year old was shot in the abdomen and had to have surgery to repair his internal organs.

Arrest papers say the child's family had gone to Checkers to drop off his aunt for work.

Arrest papers say everyone but the mother and little boy went inside. The mother told police she was in the front seat and the three year old was in the back, restrained by a seatbelt.

Arrest papers say the mother saw her sister's boyfriend pull up in a truck, put a black bag and a white t-shirt in her car and then go inside.

The mother reported that she was texting when she heard a gunshot. She told police she started looking around to see where it had come from and when she looked in the back seat she saw the 3 year old lying on the floorboard with blood around him. She told police she saw a black handgun lying on the seat.

The complete arrest affidavit is attached to this story.


                                                                                                                                          CASE #: 11-32051

TO:                              FIRST APPEARANCE MAGISTRATE                     


DEFENDANT: Rontrail D. Spencer    


CHARGES:     Child Abuse With Firearm; 827.03(1)(b) and 775.087 

                        Carrying a concealed firearm; 790.01(2)



On 11/21/11 at approximately 4:52pm TPD Officers were dispatched to a shooting incident involving a 3 year child who was shot while in a car in the parking lot of Checkers at 802 Lake Bradford Rd. 


The victim was identified as XXXXXXX.   Ofc. G. Osborne spoke with XXXXXXX's mother, A.H., while at the hospital.  She reported that she and XXXXXXX, along with her two (2) sisters, Valencia Williams and Ashley Hunter, her brother Bernard Hunter, and Valencia's boyfriend Darnell Lambert, got into her vehicle at her house in Midway.  They went to Checkers at 802 Lake Bradford Road.  Hunter reported that she drove to Checkers to drop her sister, Ashley, off because she worked there.  Hunter reported that when she arrived at the Checkers, she parked her vehicle in the same parking spot as it was found upon officer's arrival.  Hunter reported that Valencia, Ashley, Bernard and Darnell all exited the vehicle and went into Checkers, while she and XXXXXXX stayed in the vehicle. Hunter remained in the driver’s seat while XXXXXXX was in the back center seat restrained only by a seatbelt. Hunter said that XXXXXXX took off his own seatbelt once the vehicle was parked.


Hunter reported that shortly after her arrival in the parking lot, a black four (4) door "truck", possibly an SUV, pulled up in a parking spot next to her vehicle.  Hunter reported that she observed a light skinned black male driving the vehicle and another black male in the front passenger's seat.  Hunter reported that she then observed her sister, Ashley's, boyfriend "Trell" or "Terrell" get out of the rear cab of the vehicle.  Hunter reported that "Trell" then walked over to her vehicle and placed a black bag and a white t-shirt, which appeared to have been wrapped around something, into her backseat.  Hunter reported that she then observed "Trell" go into the Checkers. 


A.H. reported that as she was seated in the driver's seat, XXXXXXX was in the backseat.  A.H. reported that she was texting at which time she heard a gunshot.  Hunter reported that she began looking around to see where it had come from and as she exited the vehicle, she looked into the backseat and saw XXXXXXX lying in the floorboard with blood around him.  Hunter reported that she observed a black handgun lying on the seat at that point.


A.H. reported that she then ran into the Checker's to ask someone to call for help.  Hunter reported that she observed "Trell" exit the Checker's and go into her vehicle, possibly getting the black bag, but that after that she did not see where he went. 


A.H. positively identified Rontrail Spencer as, “Trell”.  A.H. also advised Inv. Boccio that the gun was not in the car prior to arriving at Checkers.


On 11/21/11 I interviewed Bernard Hunter.  He advised that he was with his sisters (Ashley Hunter, A.H., Valencia Williams), Darnell Lambert (boyfriend of Valencia Williams), and XXXXXXX .  They arrived together at Checkers where Darnell and Valencia work.  They were going to drop off Valencia for her scheduled shift.  Hunter advised that A.H. was driving.  He (Bernard Hunter) was in the front passenger seat.  The back seat passengers were (from driver side to passenger side) Lambert, Valencia, “XXXXXXX” (XXXXXXX), and Ashley.  He advised that when they arrived at Checkers everyone got out of the car, with the exception of XXXXXXX, and his mother, A.H..  XXXXXX remained in the backseat, and A.H. remained in the driver seat.  Bernard Hunter advised that he, Ashley, and Valencia went inside Checkers.  He advised as he was walking inside Checkers he observed, “Trell” arriving in a black SUV, possibly a Jeep Cherokee.  He said he knows “Trell” from his sister Ashley who has been dating him.  He said he waved, but did not engage in conversation. He did not see “Trell” get out of the car.  Hunter advised he and Ashley went inside, used the restroom and Valencia had to work.  Hunter said that as he was exiting the front door of Checkers he observed Lambert standing at the door as well.  He walked outside and then heard a gunshot.  He said his sister (A.H.) jumped out of the car and he and Lambert ran to the car.  He said Lambert was slightly in front of him.  He said Lambert looked inside and said, “He shot himself”.    Hunter looked in the car and observed a black handgun on the backseat next to XXXXXXX. He also said he observed a black and red bag.  He said he saw XXXXXXX had his head into the backseat and his buttocks facing toward the front seat.  He saw he was bleeding from his buttocks.  Hunter immediately removed him from the car.  Bernard Hunter took off his shirt and applied pressure to the wound.  He said the manager, “Danny”, also came out to assist and asked for another shirt.  He said Lambert opened the trunk and got another shirt.  EMS arrived and transported XXXXXXX to TMH for treatment.


I asked Bernard Hunter where the gun and bag came from.  He advised he has never seen it before, and he was certain it was not in the car prior to arriving at Checkers.  He said he and his mom had possession of the car before A.H. earlier that day, and he knew it was not there in there at that time.  He said that when they (6 of them that arrived at Checkers) left Midway, they all left together, and no one had that bag or gun with them or put it in the car.  I showed Bernard Hunter a CJIS photo of Rontrail Spencer.  He positively identified him as “Trell”.


I attempted to interview Darnell Lambert but he invoked his right to counsel and refused to make a statement.


Inv. Besse interviewed Ashley Hunter.  She provided a sworn written statement, and provided the following account.  She said that when the group arrived at Checkers, she went inside with Valencia, and Bernard.  She said that she was talking with Valencia.  She observed Bernard Hunter and her boyfriend, “Trail” walking into Checkers.  She did not observe any bag in his hands.  She said as she was walking back to the car she heard a gunshot and XXXXXXX was crying.  She said Lambert jumped out of the car and said, “He shot himself”.  She said she observed a black handgun and a white shirt on the back seat.  She was certain that was not in the car when she went inside Checkers.


Ashley Hunter identified Rontrail Spencer as her boyfriend, “Trail”.


Inv. Besse interviewed Valencia Williams.  She too provided a sworn written statement and the following account.  She said she had to work, and that is why they brought her to Checkers.  She said she went inside and as she was walking inside, she observed a black SUV pull up.  She saw “Trail” get out of the SUV.  She was inside talking with her manager when her sister, A.H. came in saying that her baby was shot. She went outside and saw the child on the ground getting first aid from another manager.  She advised she did not see “Trail” when she came back outside, and did not know where he went.


Valencia Williams was certain that there was no gun in the car before they arrived at Checkers.  She identified Rontrail Spencer as “Trail”.


XXXXXXX had emergency surgery to save his life and to repair his internal organs as a result of being shot in the lower abdomen area.


Defendant Rontrail Spencer was not present when police officers arrived at the scene.  Law Enforcement efforts to locate him on 11/21/11 and 11/22/11 were unsuccessful.  On 11/22/11 Attorney Anabelle Diaz contacted this agency and advised she was representing Spencer. She further advised he would turn himself in for any charges relating to this incident, but he would not provide a statement.


UPDATE 11-22-2011 10:20am

TPD Release

On November 21st, 2011 at 4:52p.m., the Tallahassee Police Department received a 911 call in reference to an injured child. Upon arrival, responding officers found a three year-old boy suffering from a gunshot wound. The boy was transported to a local hospital for further treatment. The gunshot was determined to come from within the Gray Chevy Impala and all people associated with the car have been identified.

The Criminal Investigation Unit and Forensic Unit responded to the scene to assist with interviews and review of evidence and vehicle was impounded for further processing.

UPDATE: November 22, 2011

The active on-going investigation is continuing with further interviews of all parties connected to this case. At this time, the act appears to be accidental in nature. The victim is out of surgery, listed in stable condition and is expected to recover from his injuries.


UPDATE 11-21-2011 10:20 p.m.

Dinner hour turns tragic at one fast food restaurant. A three-year-old is suffering from a gunshot wound. The shooting happened at the Checkers on the corner of Jackson Bluff and Lake Bradford. Now Tallahassee Police are trying to figure out exactly what happened.

Tom Duff is a store clerk at the Circle K across the street on Jackson Bluff, he says, "I didn't know what happened a few customers came in and told me they saw a white bag and that someone had gotten shot."

Duff was just one of the many people who watched as the Checkers parking lot transformed from a quiet dinner spot to a crime scene.

David Northway, the spokesman for the Tallahassee Police Department says, "About 4:52 pm we received a 911 call from the business Checkers in reference to a boy who was injured."

When officers arrived they found a silver impala and a three-year-old boy with a gunshot wound. They say the group that was in impala pulled up, parked and some of the occupants went inside for food. Some of them stayed in the car with the child. That's when the gun went off.

Northway says, "A shot was fired from within the vehicle and the child was the only one injured."

The child was then taken to a hospital and rushed into surgery. TPD says they questioned those left behind and at this time no charges have been filed.

The child's condition is not yet known, but we're told his injuries are serious.


UPDATE 11-21-2011

A 3-year old has been sent to a local hospital and is in surgery for a serious injury after a shooting at the Checkers restaurant at Stadium Drive and Jackson Bluff Road.

The 911 call came in a 4:52 pm. TPD says the boy that was shot, but would not say where the wound was.

No arrests have been made and no suspects have been named at this time.

The incident remains under investigation, and we will bring you any new details as they emerge.


Tallahassee, FL -- November 21. 2011 --

TPD responds to shooting incident at Checkers restaurant at Stadium Drive and Jackson Bluff Road.

WCTV has sent a crew to the scene and will bring you more information as it becomes available..

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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by God Bless America on Apr 25, 2012 at 06:27 PM
    6 months? What a joke.
  • by Anonymous on Apr 25, 2012 at 08:59 AM
    I read it & yes the child made a complete recovery -- but had the child picked up the gun and aimed it at YOU OR YOUR CHILD you might, just might, have a different opinion!
  • by Annomous on Apr 25, 2012 at 07:47 AM
    That's right everyone bring on the judgmental comments and the name calling for we all know you're just perfect! Sthu!!!!!
    • reply
      by Happy Annon on Apr 26, 2012 at 04:49 AM in reply to Annomous
      No! Go get a clue, or even better; a job.
  • by Jake on Apr 25, 2012 at 07:03 AM
    You people do not understand the culture. He was training his child in personal child "hood" protection.
  • by Justice Missing on Apr 25, 2012 at 04:42 AM
    Six months for negligent homicide? 10 years of something very well proven as no deterrent to reoffending? No wonder the Rontrails don't concern themselves with the judicial system. This sentencing should be a crime. A felonious crime.
    • reply
      by ddd on Apr 25, 2012 at 08:16 AM in reply to Justice Missing
      "negligent homicide"? Read the Story, the Child made a FULL Recovery.
      • reply
        by Captain Obvious on Apr 25, 2012 at 08:37 AM in reply to ddd
        DUH. Like the thug had anything what-so-ever to do with that. Clearly it is a far stretch but *try* to grasp the point. Then address it in a substantive way for a change.
  • by Krissy on Apr 25, 2012 at 04:16 AM
    10 years probation? Dude u should have taken a year in prison then to have those ppl trailing you and you giving money away it's only a trap they're counting on you to mess up so they can throw the book at you regardless of what it
    May be stupid move...
  • by Chemtrail Johnson on Apr 25, 2012 at 02:09 AM
    That is one stupid-looking s.o.b.
  • by vikki Location: tally on Apr 24, 2012 at 08:30 PM
    How stupid and inconsiderate...why would u hav a loaded gun around a child and put the gun in the backseat..everybody cant call themselves parents
  • by Abnormalous on Apr 24, 2012 at 05:39 PM
    Dude should have been innocent. He was just Standing his ground.
  • by georgia on Nov 27, 2011 at 05:50 PM
    2nd kid shot in car, one shot himself in the hand in thomasville on the 16th. 4 years old, left in car alone. be more responsible people....
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