Beaufort News

Authorities no stranger to home of 17-year-old facing involuntary manslaughter charges

There was trouble in David Barriantos Bruno's Grande Oaks home even before a 13-year-old acquaintance was shot and killed early Sunday in his bedroom, where authorities say three teenage boys spent the night drinking and smoking pot.

Bruno was playing with a 9 mm pistol that went off, grazing a friend on the chin but killing 13-year-old Joshua Lee, according to the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office.

Bruno, 17, is charged with involuntary manslaughter, pointing and presenting a firearm, and unlawful possession of a firearm by a person under 18.

Law enforcement has responded to more than two dozen calls at the home on Bluffton's Maypop Court since 2007, records indicate.

In one incident Sept. 5, 2008, a 14-year-old challenged officers attempting to charge him with an alcohol offense to "take him to jail," according to a Sheriff's Office incident report. The suspect's name is redacted from that document because he was a minor at the time of the incident, but his birthday matches the one listed for Bruno on the Beaufort County Detention Center log.

Bruno's father, Celestino Bruno-Flores, had called law enforcement to the home because his son came home drunk at 10:45 p.m., according to the report. Bruno-Flores said his son would not tell him where he had been, who he was with or who had supplied him with alcohol and drugs, according to reports.

The father added his son "comes and goes as he pleases, against his parent's wishes."

The 14-year-old refused to answer the officer's questions, the report said. When the officer warned him that he could be taken to the S.C. Department of Juvenile Justice Detention Center, the boy replied: "I don't care. Take me to jail," and said he already faced drug and larceny violations, according to reports.

Officers advised the boy's parents to continue to call law enforcement whenever their son misbehaved.

The boy was later enrolled in Fresh Start -- a Sheriff's Office program for at-risk youth and their families. He was released from the program in December 2009, after completing the sanctioned requirements, according to reports.Earlier this year, a neighbor anonymously reported the sound of gunshots coming from the home.

When a deputy arrived there at about 12:45 a.m., Bruno-Flores said they were having a "celebration" and that party-goers were shooting pistols in the air. The guests apparently left the home before deputies arrived. Neighbors would not speak with the deputy, reports indicate.

"There appeared to be no criminal activity, or none that could be determined based on the little information obtained," the report said.

Other reports in connection to the Maypop home included a fight, several neighbors' complaints about the family's pit bulls, domestic incidents and an incident in which the window of vehicle parked at the home was shattered.

Sheriff P.J. Tanner said Wednesday that in "99.9 percent" of the Sheriff's Office calls for service at the home, deputies who were dispatched didn't find anything when they arrived.

"In most cases, whatever had been reported wasn't going on anymore or everyone had left the home," he said. "In those kind of cases, we have to rely on eyewitnesses, but some in the neighborhood are hesitant about offering up information or testifying because of a fear of retaliation."

Authorities say that on Sunday, Bruno was carelessly handling a gun in his bedroom of his family's home when the weapon fired, striking Lee in the torso at about 7 a.m. Bruno's father discovered Lee's body in his son's bedroom, where he apparently had been left by Bruno and a third teen who suffered a superficial wound, possibly from the bullet that killed Lee, according to the Sheriff's Office.

Investigators believe that Bruno, Lee and the 16-year-old Bluffton boy might have been involved in gang activity together, Tanner said Monday.

Tanner said Wednesday the incident is still under investigation.

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