A teenage girl was shot and killed in Englewood more than a month ago, and authorities have been silent on the subject.
Autumn Higgs, 16, of Port Charlotte, died March 31 — but law enforcement authorities did not announce to the public that a fatal shooting had occurred.
Social media rumors reached her father in New Mexico weeks later.
Joe Higgs called The Daily Sun on April 30.
“I’ve been trying to call my daughter and I need some help; I heard she was shot and killed, but I can’t verify it,” Higgs told a reporter.
A friend of his who knew Autumn said she’d died.
“I’m trying to find out if she’s still alive; I can’t get hold of her, and I can’t find an obit,” he said.
Higgs said his daughter lived with her maternal grandmother in Port Charlotte. Autumn Higgs graduated a year early from a local high school, he said.
Higgs tried to contact Autumn’s maternal grandmother but discovered her house had been sold and he could not find her, he said.
The last time he spoke with his daughter was Feb. 22, he said.
The Charlotte County Medical Examiner’s office confirmed this week that Autumn Higgs’ body was brought to its facility. Joe Higgs was later told his daughter was cremated and her ashes put into the sea.
Higgs said he has heard different stories about what happened, including the death being an accidental shooting involving a teenage boy putting a gun in a safe.
“But other people said different things,” he said.
He said the boy was a 17-year-old Englewood resident.
Higgs is divorced from Autumn’s mother Denise Mercer. He said he doesn’t have her phone number.
Attempts to contact Denise Mercer and her mother Karen Mercer were unsuccessful.
Joe Higgs said he called the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office and was told the Major Crimes Unit was investigating.
The Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office did not return calls requesting more information.
The Daily Sun obtained a heavily redacted 911 transcript tied to the shooting. The only portion not redacted states: “On March 31st, 2021 at 8:51 PM Charlotte County Deputies responded to xxx Euler Ave., Englewood. Charlotte County, Florida due to a 911 call of gunshots.”
A March 31 Charlotte County Fire & EMS report shows paramedics at 11041 Euler Ave. They arrived at 9:12 p.m.
The report shows paramedics performed chest compressions and a deputy was on the scene “working on a trauma arrest.”
“After working the trauma code approximately 20-25 minutes Rescue 3 called the patient deceased,” the report read.
A helicopter, which was standing by, was taken off standby, the report concluded.
Another incident report filed by Deputy K. Welch of the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office on April 1, was also heavily redacted. The CCSO cited an “ongoing investigation” as the reason for the redaction.
It read, in part, “On 04/01/2021 at approximately 0100 hours (1 a.m.) I responded to the D1 Office, located at 11051 Wilmington Blvd., Englewood, Charlotte County, Florida, at the request of Major Crimes Detectives (MCU) for a mentally ill person.”
It states a juvenile male “had been involved in the incident the (previous) evening involving the accidental discharge of a firearm.”
“(Name redacted) was extremely distraught following the incident and made several statements in regards to suicide to include telling LEO present on scene ‘Shoot me, shoot me now!’ xxx repeatedly stated that LEO needed to kill him now or ‘It’ll happen now or later, either way its (sic) gonna happen.’ “
The report went on to state, “xxx also threatened he was going to tie himself up with the seat belts in a CCSO vehicle and strangle himself. xxx was observed repeatedly seen striking himself in the forehead with his open hand. xxx stated his ‘life is over. There is no moving on from this. My life is over. There is nothing left for me.’ “
The reported concluded by Welch stating: “Due to xxx suicidal statements and his distraught behavior, it was deemed that xxx required further mental evaluation and treatment by a mental health professional. xxx was placed into protective custody under Baker Act. xxx was transported to Charlotte Behavioral Center (CSU) without incident.”
Among the stories Higgs has heard is the boy comes from a “prominent family” and the matter was “hushed up” by local law enforcement.
On Wednesday, the home was vacant. A neighbor said as soon as the crime scene tape was removed, the family left. Neighbors say the the sheriff’s office spent two days investigating at the home.
The neighbor said there were multiple people living at the home, always coming and going.
Correction: Previously Joe Higgs was referred to as Brandon Higgs.