Man playing with gun charged with manslaughter in 17-year-old's shooting

by: Kevin McCarty Updated:

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TACOMA, Wash. —

When Jalon Bea was shot while standing outside his best friend's home in south Tacoma, the first thing Brian Whitfield did was rush him to the hospital. Whitfield said he heard a loud bang and saw Bea, 17, fall to the ground. At first everyone around him thought he was joking. Then they saw the look in Bea's eyes, and the blood. "We turned him over and he was bleeding out," Whitfield said. "So my first instinct was to just get him out of here." Bea died in Whitfield's truck less than a block away from St. Joseph's Medical Center.

According to a probable cause affidavit, Bea was shot and killed by Tanielu Lotovaivai as Lotovaivai was "playing around" with a 38 caliber revolver. The affidavit states Lotovaivai thought the pistol was unloaded when he pointed it at Bea and pulled the trigger. Bea was struck in the chest. "Reckless, stupid, he did not mean to shoot anybody," said Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Lindquist.

Lotovaivai pleaded not guilty to a charge of first-degree manslaughter during his arraignment in Pierce County Superior court on Tuesday. His bail was set at $250,000. Tacoma police said Lotovaivai surrendered on Monday, nearly three days after Bea's death.

 Bea's best friend Dario Whitfield said watching him die has still left him in shock. "It happened so fast I can't believe it. It's like a dream you can't wake up from," said Whitfield. Brian Whitfield said he was determined not to let Bea die on the street and is grief stricken that the teenager never made it to the emergency room where doctors may have been able to save him. "I'm hurt by it because he didn't say nothing to me as he went. And I can't tell his mom what he said last because I don't know. You know what I'm saying? What his last words were," said Whitfield.