TAMPA — Camisha Denny wants justice for her son. But first she needs answers.
Before Denny drove her husband to work on Feb. 1, she said goodbye to her son Ivan Johnson, 17. He said goodbye to her, told her he loved her and said he’d see her when she got home.
“I love you too baby,” she said.
It was the last time she’d see him as she knew him — not hooked up to hospital machines, brain dead.
That night, Ivan was shot in the eye with a BB rifle at close range while he sat in a car near a Tampa bank on N Westshore Boulevard. The rifle was fired by an 8-year-old boy after the younger boy’s dad had stepped out of the car.
Ivan was taken to Tampa General Hospital in critical condition, his mother said. When he died several days later, the family donated his organs, which went to nine people.
Denny, 40, has tried to piece together information from police and neighbors to try to understand what happened.
“I really think that something needs to be done, justice needs to be served for my son,” Denny said. “We need answers. We’re not getting any answers.”
She knows that earlier that day, a group of boys and a man she had never seen before were playing with BB guns. A Tampa police officer told the man to put the guns away, and she said he put them in the back of his car.
She was told her son got into the car with the man and his children to get a ride to the store. Police say that when the man, who they have not identified publicly, left to use an ATM, the 8-year-old accidentally fired the rifle. A 10-year-old was also in the car.
Initially, police said the man was Ivan’s father. Then they called him a close family friend. But Denny said she never saw the man before that day, and hadn’t ever been introduced to the mother of the other children. She said neither came to the hospital, apologized or even left a note about her son.
As a mother, she can’t understand that.
“The father, it’s negligence on his behalf, that gun should have been secured and put away,” she said.
No charges have been filed in the case. A Tampa police spokesman said officers will meet with the Hillsborough State Attorney’s office this week to go over the evidence.
Ivan was Denny’s youngest child and her only son. She said people would tell her he was just like his mother.
She said her son was nurturing and loved to help at the daycare she used to run. Some of the kids he used to play with came to the hospital. He liked to teach them how to play the keyboard.
He was also incredibly devout, she said. His girlfriend said he was “infatuated with Christ." He wore a bracelet with Psalms 23 on it and played the organ in his congregation.
He played football and basketball. Just before he was shot, Ivan had set up a basketball tournament that he was buzzing about. The teams that had signed up also visited the hospital, Denny said.
“My son is loved by many and will be missed by a lot more,” she said. “The biggest thing I want to tell the community is to love on your babies as if it was the last time, because life is not promised to anyone.”