‘Terrible Tragedy:’ Florida Man Fatally Shoots Brother With Gun He Thought Was Unloaded, Deputies Say

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LAKELAND, Fla. — Detectives from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office responded to a shooting incident in the Eaton Park area of Lakeland near Maine Avenue and Reynolds Road, on Wednesday, April 22, 2020. Deputies were initially dispatched to an accidental shooting at around 8:12 pm, but the 21-year-old victim died less than an hour later at Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center.

The investigation determined that the man was shot once in the chest by his half-brother, 19-year-old Tyler Nichols.

Two other family members were in the house at the time, one of whom witnessed the shooting.

According to evidence and information collected, Nichols and his brother were horse-playing after eating dinner, and were preparing to go to the store together to purchase blunt cigar wrappers that they could use to smoke marijuana together. Nichols jokingly picked-up a handgun, which he believed was unloaded, pointed it at his brother, and pulled the trigger.

Family members stated that the brothers were very close and had not been arguing.

“This is a horrible, terrible tragedy. Even if you think that the gun is unloaded, never point one at another person in jest. Tragic consequences can result.” Grady Judd, Sheriff.

Detectives determined that Nichols acted negligently and carelessly with the gun, and was charged with Manslaughter (F2) for his brother’s death.

Additionally, Nichols was on pre-trial release for shooting into a house in October of 2019. The conditions of his release prohibited him from possessing any firearms. He was also found to be in possession of marijuana.

Tyler Nichols’ prior criminal history consists of seven felonies and six misdemeanors, including: Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon, Shooting into a Building, Discharging a Firearm from a Vehicle, Burglary, Grand Theft, Tampering with Evidence, Battery (4), and Criminal Mischief.

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