Deputies: Polk County man shoots, kills half-brother

Courtesy: Polk County Sheriff's Office

Polk County deputies arrested Tyler Nichols, 19, after they say he shot and killed his half-brother.

According to deputies, Nichols and his half-brother were horse-playing after dinner and were preparing to go to the store together to purchase blunt cigar wrappers that they could use to smoke marijuana.

Deputies said Nichols jokingly picked up a handgun, which he believed was unloaded, pointed it as his half-brother and pulled the trigger.

Two other family members were in the house at the time and one witnessed the shooting. Family members stated that the brothers were very close and had not been arguing. 

The 21-year-old victim was taken to Lakeland Regional Medical Center and died less than an hour later.

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

Detectives said Nichols acted negligently and carelessly with the gun and charged him with manslaughter.

At the time of the shooting, 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, deputies said. 

In addition to the manslaughter charge, Nichols was also charged with violation of pre-trial release, possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia. 

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 and criminal mischief.