Dr. Philip Ireland (center, with mic): “We hold nothing against him; we want nothing from him.”

Justice Ministry to make announcement on Cyber-Ed School shooting today.

When 14-year-old Precious Pearl Ireland died on April 13, as a result of a gunshot wound, her family was left with the scars of loss, grief and a burning desire for justice.

From the public glare, forgiveness did not seem as an option. As the quest for answers to burning questions ensued, regarding how and why, there was an apparent push for Jovanus Oliver Turay, 16, who shot precious, to be charged as an adult by the state and not as a juvenile.

“We are not making a conclusion at the moment because we obviously know that the act was untimely,” said Atty. Maxwell Grisby, an uncle of the deceased days after the shooting. Interestingly, Grigsby, who works as the Chairman of the Liberia National Commission on Small Arms (LiNCSA), said he was speaking only in his capacity as a family member and not as a LiNCSA official.

“Such gruesome killing will not go unpunished, but I don’t how that will happen. So we will give all of our full support to this case,” Grisby added.

In a press release immediately after the shooting, the school said “a student brought a handgun to school this morning, and while a majority of the students were eating breakfast in designated locations, this student slipped away to show off the gun to a friend and it accidentally went off.”

But the Ireland family immediately since disputed the school narrative that the shooting leading to the death of their daughter was accidental in the absence of a full police investigative report.

But in a shocking move, the bereaved family, led by, the late Precious’ father, Dr. Philip Ireland, did the unexpected offering a statement of forgiveness for Jovanus Turay, the young lad who shot and killed his daughter at the Cyber-Ed Christian School during the early morning hours of April 13, 2021.

In an emotional tribute that shook the audience, Dr. Ireland, on behalf of the family, regretted his daughter’s sudden death but, in the midst of the grief and regret, forgave Jovanus Turay for his action, and called for reconciliation, and peace among the two families that were once close.

“As head of the family, we the family, we forgive Jovanus, his father and everybody that has to do with that family hundred percent,” Dr. Ireland, a survivor of the deadly Ebola crisis in Liberia shockingly announced. “We don’t want anything, we don’t want blood for blood, and we don’t want any revenge. Our country has seen too much of that, we forgive, we require nothing.”

However, the Ireland family did not just forgive Jovanus, but went the extra mile to offer blessings and prayers for the 16-year old and his family, and the nation at large.

According to the Ireland family, the move to forgive Jovanus and pray for him is predicated upon disastrous impact of revenge in Liberia, which has led to much bloodshed caused by deep-rooted hatred.

“In fact, to take one step forward, we bless you, we pray for Jovanus, we take one step further again, we ask God that he will be a better father, a better husband. We will never serve the enemy, we hold to God. That is our tribute for the beloved Precious,” Dr. Ireland prayed on behalf of the bereaved family.

Dr. Ireland further reflected on the uncontrollable and unwavering love, and concern, his daughter showed him when he was taken home after a medical report revealed that he had contracted EBOLA.

“She often fed me, when I never even had the appetite to eat, she was a beautiful child and very kind and loving soul,” he said with agony, and distress.

It can be recalled that Jovanus’ parents condemned their son’s actions and offered apologies, even begged the Ireland family for forgiveness.

Is Jovanus free?

Although the Ireland family may have forgiven Jovanus, the 16-year-old is still yet not free as the act is criminal in nature, not a civil wrongdoing.

Jovanus Turay, an avid freestyle rapper, is seen in several photos making hand gestures as if operating a gun — a position, which the prosecution team could argue as a basis to have him tried as an adult. In other photos, he is seen holding a rifle, suggesting hands-on experience in handling firearms.

Jovanus Oliver Turay and Precious Ireland seemed to be close friends. But how close?

As such, his fate now lies in the hand of the state, which is expected to charge him anytime soon, either as an adult or as a juvenile, depending on the outcome of the Police investigation.

Up to the writing of this story, the police have not released a report from the investigation to the public.

“Appropriate charges will be levied on tomorrow [May 3],” Justice Minister Cllr. Frank Musa Dean told the Daily Observer.  

But regardless of the state charges, whether Jovanus will be tried as an adult will depend on a compendium of decisions and actions by police investigators, the prosecutor (representing the State, MoJ), Turay’s legal counsel, as well as the Judge of the juvenile court. The investigation, if thorough enough might determine whether the act was premeditated or a fatal mistake, though the defendant’s experience with guns stands as a fact not in his favor.

If the prosecution failed to convince the judge, however, in this case, where there is clear evidence that he committed the crime, Jovanus defense team could use the affirmative defense plea of immaturity for waiver or a lesser sentence.

Section 11.21 Judiciary Law of Liberia stated that “that if a juvenile sixteen years of age or older is charged with a lesser offense, which would be a felony if committed by a person over the age of eighteen years, the juvenile court, if it concludes after a full investigation that it is in the best interest of such juvenile or of the public, may in its discretion waive its jurisdiction and certify such juvenile for proper criminal proceedings to any court which would have trial jurisdiction of such offense if it were committed by a person over the age of eighteen years.”

However, the court, in announcing a waiver, has to take into consideration “the best interest of the child” under its jurisdiction, which means that a balance has to be found between juvenile wellbeing and the actual application of the law.

Who gave Jovanus the gun?

Despite the crime being committed by Jovanus, it is yet unclear how and from where Jovanus Turay obtained the fire-arm, whether owned by his parent(s) or someone somewhere outside of the home or how he got exposed to firearms—although he is seen in a Facebook photo holding sometime resembling a single barrel rifle.

And while Jovanus’ mother, Joan Saah, told investigators that the homicide weapon belonged to Lauvette A. Williams, Sr., her deceased consort, who was a customs broker, the family of the late Mr. Williams has denied that the man ever owned a gun. 

In a statement signed by Hester Williams and Shirley Williams Awadje, the Williams family unequivocally denied the allegation, stressing that the deceased was a law-abiding and peace-loving man who spent his entire life serving humanity in his church (The Little White Chapel).

The issue of how Jovanus obtained the gun in question calls for accountability of the adult who allowed a minor to gain access to the firearm.

‘Believe in God’

Meanwhile, Bishop M. Wolo Belleh, of the Harvest Intercontinental Cathedral-Liberia, in his funeral discourse, urged the congregation including bereaved family to always believe that God is faithful.

“As you mourn the loss of your daughter, there are too many questions that run through our minds as this point in time, realizing that a valuable member of the family, community and the entire educational system in Liberia has lost one of its future leaders, who was destined for greatness, has suddenly be cut off,” he said.

Bishop Belleh narrated that the 14 years old Precious did not deserve what she went through, and her death came as a shock not only to the family but the whole nation.

“I have come to tell you that, this child that we have come to celebrate was a destiny child sent by God to accomplish a mission or assignment here on the face of the earth but has suddenly departed from among us, “Bishop Belleh noted.

“Lesson in this tragedy”

In remarks on behalf of the government, Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor described the death of Precious Ireland as a tragedy but noted that here is a lesson that needs to be learned from it.

“She has already gone ahead and the door behind her is closed. This lesson goes to the family, not just to the bereaved family, but every family across our nation that there is something missing in our family. We are searching for many things and leaving the most important things — the gift of life of our children,” added VP Howard-Taylor.

VP Taylor furthered that young kids have taken drugs to school, elementary, high school and colleges and no one cares, but “we turn a blind eye.” As such, parents need to desist from being too busy for their children and be cautious about the kinds of friends they associate with, noted.

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