Girlfriend charged with manslaughter after accidental shooting - FOX 13 News

Girlfriend charged with manslaughter after accidental shooting

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Twenty-year-old Mandy Avis appeared in a Pinellas County courtroom on manslaughter charges.

"Ms. Avis, how long have you lived at 1945 2nd Ave. N in St. Pete?" asked the judge.

"About a year," Avis answered.

Mandy lived at this house with her boyfriend, 23-year-old Michael Ward. On Wednesday night, the couple was hanging out with friends when police say Michael was playing with a new gun.

Mandy thought it was unloaded, she told investigators.

"It appears that he left and went into the bedroom for a brief period of time and while he was in the bedroom, he loaded the gun, left it on the bed and then his girlfriend came in and was unaware that he had loaded the gun," said Michael Puetz, Public Information Officer for the St. Petersburg Police Department.

Then, she pointed the gun and pulled the trigger, Puetz said. Michael was rushed to the hospital where he died.

Meanwhile, Mandy's family made a plea in court for a lower bond, telling the judge she had no criminal past and this was a tragic accident.

However, Michael's brother is raising questions. In an exclusive interview with FOX 13, he said the couple had a history of problems.

"They argued a lot. I know that, but all relationships argue. It's just, I can't believe that somebody would point a gun at somebody. I thought people knew better, and better yet, pull the trigger? That's something I can't understand," said Joseph Ward, Michael's brother.

A neighbor said he also heard fighting next door just before the shooting.

"A lot of arguing coming all the time out of there, all the time," said Mark Varanai, who lives nearby.

However, police said that according to witness statements, the couple wasn't fighting.

"In this particular case, we know the folks were using marijuana prior to this taking place, so it's usually, there's some sort of drinking involved. People's inhibitions are down and consequently, they don't really think things through when they do stuff like this," Puetz said.

Meanwhile, the victim's family is just coming to terms with the fact that Michael is gone.

"I feel like he's coming back to life but, waiting for the doctor to call, 'He's alive, he's alive,' but I don't think it's gonna happen. He's gone," Joseph said.

Michael's family said he enjoyed spending time with his friends, playing basketball and fishing. He worked at the Waffle House in Tampa and Mandy worked at the Waffle House in St. Pete Beach.

She is being held on a $75,000 bond and will be back in court on Friday.

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