DeSoto County Fair shooter to stay in detention lockup; community copes - 96.9 WINK FM

DeSoto County Fair shooter to stay in detention lockup; community copes


A small community is reeling as an accused killer sits in secure detention for shooting a 17-year-old boy.

The murder at the DeSoto County Fair shook families in Arcadia, and people are trying to cope.

Jean McGowan has lived in Arcadia for more than two decades.

While she doesn’t know the teenager shot and killed or the alleged shooter, she feels the loss.

“It’s very unusual, unnecessary. And not really what Arcadia is about. It’s very different thing. Very unexpected surprised that something like that would happen in this small town,” McGowan said.

The accused shooter, 15-year-old Ryan Watson Jr., went to court for the first time on Thursday morning.

According to Florida law, Watson can be charged as an adult. Florida, along with a handful of other states, allows any child 14 and over to be charged as an adult.

WINK News read through the statute, and the state attorney involved in the case has all the power to make that decision.

It’s called the Discretionary Direct File Law. It allows state attorneys to impose adult sanctions on certain minors without judicial review.

A state attorney can do this if the child commits any one of the felonies outlined in the law, including arson, robbery, kidnapping, and, like in the case of 15-year-old Watson, murder.

That being said, the criteria are vague, so WINK News asked former prosecutor and criminal defense attorney Douglas Molloy, who has no relation to the case, to clarify the process.

The person that’s in the driver’s seat here is the state attorney. Because it’s discretionary, the state attorney can make that decision. And unlike most states, or almost all states, that discretion is not something that is reviewed, it’s just something that is done. So the state attorney decides on what is in the public’s interest,” said Molloy.

Watson is in juvenile detention. He will be held there until March 1st at 5 p.m. The state attorney has another hearing that day where we expect to learn what’s next for the teen.

Meanwhile, the message from the Arcadia Police Department; “We appreciate your help. And we’re going to continue to work this case until it’s over,” said Lt. Troy Carrillo.

People who live in Arcadia believe their small town will survive this big blow by leaning on one another.

“Supporting each other like we’ve done in the past, you know. You know other accidents that happen here, tragedies and stuff, and we’ll get through it,” said Carlos Zapta, of Arcadia.

The question remains about how Watson got the gun and who that gun belongs to. Police say depending on the circumstances, the gun’s owner could face charges.


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