Jarelle D. Mercado, a 14-year-old student at Matanzas High School, faces two felony charges after allegedly shooting a BB gun and wounding a fellow-student early Thursday evening in Palm Coast’s F Section.
The incident involved four people, most of them on the Matanzas High School football team, including Mercado and the 15-year-old victim, who was hospitalized at AdventHealth Palm Coast.
The incident was preceded by a case of bullying and sexual humiliation that had originated earlier in the day at the school, though authorities say no connection was established between the bullying and the shooting: no motive was established for the shooting. Rather, it appears from what authorities gathered that Mercado had entirely misjudged–or not judged–the severity of his own actions.
AdventHealth Palm Coast personnel contacted 911 near 6 p.m. to report that a 15-year-old boy was brought to the hospital with a gunshot wound to the stomach, though the projectile was in fact from a BB gun pellet. Still, it was a serious enough injury, though it was serious enough to warrant medical intervention.
The victim, speaking to a Flagler County Sheriff’s deputy from a hospital bed, told the deputy that his friend earlier that day had been caught masturbating in a school bathroom by another football player. By the time football practice began, “the majority of the football team was teasing” the boy, including Mercado and another boy who would turn out to be one of the witnesses in the BB gun shooting.
The victim and the other student were then walking home on the bike path through the F Section when they heard a voice call out, “Is that you?” It came from that witness, who was with Mercado at Mercado’s house (who turned out to be Mercado’s cousin). They were sitting inside a screened-in patio in back of the house. The victim and his friend remained on the bike path, so they never crossed onto Mercado’s property. But Mercado told the two teens to leave. They did not.
Mercado then walked out of the screened in patio “carrying a black colored gun with a scope attached,” according to his arrest report. He raised the firearm and pointed it toward the two students on the bike path “while looking through the scope” (the deputy wrote that line in bold in the report).
The name of the victim is redacted in the report, but either he or his friend was picking up a backpack from the bike path when Mercado pulled the trigger, and the victim fell to his knees, later describing it as feeling as if the wind was knocked out of him. Mercado, according to the victim and the witness, ran inside the house with his cousin, and were heard laughing.
The victim’s friend helped him walk home. The victim told a deputy he never made any threats toward Mercado, and remained on the bike path the whole time.
Mercado was cooperative with law enforcement throughout, saying he’d told the two other boys to “go home” and only intended to scare them and get them to leave the area. He said he was on the porch when he fired the BB gun and did not hear anyone scream.
The pellet ended up lodged inside the victim’s abdomen. The victim believed the BB gun was an actual firearm, and had feared for his life, though in matters of law it does not matter if a threat is made with an actual firearm or a toy gun.
Mercado was charged with aggravated assault and aggravated battery causing bodily harm. Both are felonies. He has no prior record.