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Teens get deadly lesson on gun play

Lakia Renee Scott hadn't been in school in years. She hadn't been home in days.

Tuesday morning, the 17-year-old found herself in a strange apartment, with three other disaffected kids.

And four guns.

That math didn't work in Scott's favor. Before the school bell rang for lunch, she was dead of a gunshot to the chest.

About 11:15 a.m., a fully loaded .22-caliber handgun was being passed around in the one-story apartment at 1603 Andrade Court in the Ponce de Leon housing complex, police said. One 17-year-old boy pointed the gun at another 13-year-old boy, whose mother was across the street making a phone call.

Then the 17-year-old, Duane L. Brown, pointed the cocked revolver at Scott, police said.

She told him to put it away.

"He started squeezing the trigger with his thumb on the hammer," Tampa police spokesman Steve Cole said. "He tried to let it down slowly, but the gun went off."

The kids thought she was playing, but she likely bled to death before one of them dashed across the street to tell Ruby Murphy there had been a shooting in her apartment.

Brown was charged with third-degree murder for Scott's death, and aggravated assault for pointing the gun at the 13-year-old, Norman Pete Murphy.

"What he did was reckless, neglectful and just plain stupid," Cole said. "If you're going to let the hammer down, you do not need to be pointing it at someone."

When police arrived at the apartment, they found three other handguns, all .38s, and two boxes of ammunition.

Although the guns were found under her bed, Ruby Murphy said she didn't know where they came from.

No one on Andrade Court appeared to know where Scott came from either.

The other girl in the apartment, Michelle A. Williams, 15, met Scott on the street corner two days ago.

Scott lives miles away from Ponce de Leon on Ballast Point Boulevard in south Tampa. Melissa Critelli, a friend of hers from across the street, said she lost touch with Scott when she started "hanging around with drug dealers, people who carried guns."

"She was a really nice girl," Critelli said. "But she'd do anything to fit in."

On Tuesday, the teens gathered at Murphy's apartment because Duane Brown's father is involved with Ruby Murphy, according to Murphy's family. The older kids don't go to school and Norman Murphy was about to go back to school after serving a suspension for getting in a fight with a girl.

They were doing nothing more than "relaxing," Norman Murphy said tersely. He said he liked hanging out with Brown because the older boy is "funny."

But it made him mad, he said, when Brown pointed the gun at him.

Brown seemed unfazed by the day's events.

"All he was concerned about was what was going to happen to him," Tampa police Detective Rick Childers said as Brown was taken to the juvenile detention center.

In the late afternoon, police drove to Ballast Point Boulevard to tell Scott's parents of her death.

A few minutes later, a school bus pulled up to the end of her street and dropped off a handful of kids.