SOUTH BEND — A 19-year-old is facing several charges after his 1-year-old nephew was shot and killed inside a home on South Bend’s south side Tuesday afternoon.
Joseph Troupe, 19, is charged with neglect of a dependent resulting in death, reckless homicide, and two counts of neglect of a dependent.
Officers were called around 12:40 p.m. Tuesday to the 800 block of Amhurst Avenue and found a 1-year-old boy suffering from a gunshot wound.
Police say the boy was rushed to the hospital, where he died Wednesday morning.
In an emotional press conference Wednesday afternoon, police said the evidence suggests the 1-year-old boy and his 2-year-old cousin were playing with Troupe’s gun when the 2-year-old pulled the trigger, resulting in his cousin’s death.
According to charging documents, Troupe had been staying at his sister’s home on Amhurst Avenue for the past several days to help with childcare duties. He had slept with his gun under his pillow the night before the shooting.
Troupe told police when he woke up, he forgot about the semiautomatic handgun under his pillow, which was loaded. He then told police that his 2-year-old son and his 1-year-old nephew went inside the bedroom after he had left it.
Troupe then told police he was in the living room with his sister and his 1-year-old daughter when they heard a gunshot.
“Both Mr. Troupe and our victim’s mother were in the living room, which is just off of that bedroom, and they heard a gunshot,” said St. Joseph County Prosecutor Ken Cotter. “So, the evidence suggests that the 2-year-old playing with that gun pulled the trigger, resulting in his cousin’s death.”
Troupe then allegedly ran into the bedroom to find his son standing near the door and his nephew on the floor with a gunshot wound. He then told police he grabbed the gun and left the home in his sister’s vehicle before officers arrived.
Troupe was found shortly afterward at his home on Cushing Street and was detained. Police later found a 9mm handgun hidden inside a couch in the backyard of Troupe’s home.
Police say ballistics recovered from his sister’s home on Amhurst Ave. suggest it was the same gun used in the shooting. He admitted to police that he had hidden the weapon before being detained.
Troupe faces a minimum of 20 years or a maximum of 40 years in prison if convicted on the Level 1 felony charge of neglect of a dependent resulting in death.
“So, while Mr. Troupe has not pulled the trigger, Indiana law says that when a person has the care of a dependent,” Cotter said. “And places that dependent in a situation that might endanger that dependent’s life or health, and it results in the death of that dependent that the person is guilty of a level one felony.”
During Wednesday’s press conference, police said Troupe was arrested earlier that afternoon and will face a judge for the first time Thursday afternoon.
Officials also added that since the beginning of 2020, there have been 16 incidents in which children got access to a firearm, resulting in an injury.
“Since the beginning of 2020, in South Bend alone, there have been 16 incidents in which children got access to a firearm, and somebody got hurt, either self-inflicted or another kid got hurt,” Cotter said. “That’s 16 times way too many.”
“This is the fifth time a child has died because of children getting access to the firearms. And in most instances, they were the parents’ firearms. And it’s not hard to keep those things secured,” Cotter said.
“How and when does it stop,” asked police chief Scott Ruszkowski rhetorically during the press conference. “When does it end? How do we make this end? I mean, we’ve asked, we’ve pleaded, we’ve told, and now we’re at the make point. And now here it is, somebody potentially losing many, many years of their life in prison on top of it, something that should have been avoided.”