A group of more than 100 high school students stood in awe as they watched an 18-year-old boy, who accidentally shot a classmate to death five years ago, reunite with the victim’s mother to share their stories.
Jordyn Howe and Ady Guzman-DeJesus returned to court on Feb. 9, but not for a legal hearing. They were brought together by Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Ellen Sue Venzer as part of an event to help students at Gulliver High School understand the consequences of crime, the Miami Herald reported.
The tragic incident occurred in November 2011. Howe was just 15-years-old at the time. He said he had brought a gun to school to help a trusted friend protect himself from bullies.
“Did you have any idea anybody off the bus would get hurt?” Judge Venzer asked Howe.
“Probably,” Howe responded. “I thought they would have more guns than we have. Either we’d die there, me or him, or … I don’t know.”
Howe allowed other students to play with the gun. Later, while pointing the gun, he pulled the trigger and accidentally shot and killed Guzman-DeJesus’s 13-year-old daughter, Lourdes “Jina” Guzman-DeJesus.
Howe pleaded guilty to manslaughter with a deadly weapon in June 2014. With the blessing of the victim’s mother, Howe was adjudicated as a juvenile instead of an adult.
During the event, a student asked the mother how she got around to forgiving Howe for the murder of her daughter.
“I know he didn’t do it on purpose,” Guzman-DeJesus said, according to Lift Bump. “It took me awhile to understand that. He’s not a killer. I know in his heart, he’s sorry. I decided to forgive him.”
Howe went on to describe the tense relationship he had with his own mother, whom he did not meet until he arrived in the United States at the age of 9 from Honduras.
“She would blame me for everything,” Howe said. “Anything that happened in my family, they would say it was my fault.”
Judge Venzer said she believes Howe was able to find a mother figure in Guzman-DeJesus, who sat and talked with him for hours in the courtroom hallway.
“She was very maternal toward him,” Judge Venzer said. “It was very tender.”
The display was so moving that it brought some students to tears.
“It was very heartwarming,” said Pablo Ocampo, a 17-year-old Gulliver student. “It really shows the humanity of some people. It was a very beautiful thing.”
Howe will remain under the supervision of the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice until he is 21 years old. He said he fears he will be deported back to Honduras once his court suspension is over.