WARREN - Relatives of a woman accused of killing her best friend last week during a birthday party at Perkins Park said there is no doubt that the fatal shot was fired accidentally.
Lakeisha Bell, 19, of Warren pleaded not guilty at her initial court appearance on Thursday. Her bond was set at $100,000.
She is accused of fatally shooting McKayla Hopkins, 18, of Howland during an Aug. 2 celebration of Bell's 19th birthday.
Tribune Chronicle / Virginia Shank
Lakeisha Bell appears onscreen during a video arraignment Thursday.
"They loved each other. This is sad for both of them, both of their families. It hurts all of us that this happened," said Jonathan Penn, who was among several of Bell's family members, including her mom, at Thursday's proceedings.
Bell was initially charged with involuntary manslaughter and carrying a concealed weapon, both felonies. However, on Thursday an additional felony charge of having a weapon under disability was also lodged against her.
She waived her preliminary hearing, meaning the case will be directly presented to a Trumbull County grand jury.
Police, who confirmed she turned herself in to law enforcement on Wednesday, said they believe the shooting was accidental.
Hopkins died of a single gunshot wound to her torso. Funeral services for her were also held Thursday.
"It's really hard on all of us right now," Brenda Johnson, a Bell relative, said.
Detectives were called to the birthday party after receiving reports that someone had been shot.
At the time of the shooting Bell was free on $20,000 bond on another arrest. She had been charged in April with two felony counts of aggravated drug trafficking and was scheduled to appear at an Aug. 28 pretrial hearing in that case.
Warren Municipal Court Judge Thomas P. Gysegem denied a request from Bell's attorney for a lesser bond amount, stating he would not "cut that bond by one dollar" because not only did Bell have pending cases against her at the time of the shooting, but in this matter, a person is dead.
A witness to the Aug. 2 incident said someone brought a gun to the party and was showing it to people at the party.
Police said that although there were several people at the party, they all said at the time that they were not able to identify the shooter.
Several of Bell's relatives in court on Thursday said they were at the party. However, they declined to say much about it other than everyone had been having a nice time.
"It was a nice party. It wasn't like there was any fighting or arguing or anything going on," Penn said. "It really was an accident."