Family of shooting victim distraught at judge’s sentencing decision for suspect

Confessed suspect maintains shooting was accidental

Emotions were running high in a Miami courthouse on Thursday as a family learned how much time their loved one’s killer would be spending behind bars.

MIAMI – Emotions were running high in a Miami courthouse on Thursday as a family learned how much time their loved one’s killer would be spending behind bars.

The suspect had confessed to accidentally shooting a 17-year-old girl in the head.

“I am so sorry. This is my fault,” Michael McGowan said through tears.

A South Florida family is outraged by what they believe was a lenient sentence given to a young man who was convicted of killing a teenage girl two years ago.

The victim’s family was visibly pained by the judge’s ruling.

The teen girl’s mother cried out, aiming her comments at the person responsible for her daughter’s death.

“I can’t hear her call me mommy anymore, ‘Mom I love you, mom, mom.’ You took that from me,” she said.

McGowan, now 20 years old, has been convicted as a youthful offender in the shooting death of Gisselle Rengifo, the younger sister of Cartel Crew cast member Salomé “Betty Idol” Rengifo Jackson.

Michael McGowan, 17, faces a manslaughter charge in connection with an accidental shooting on May 18. (Miami-Dade Corrections & Rehabilitation)

It happened back in May of 2020 while they were at a house party in Miami.

Rengifo was fatally shot in the head.

McGowan admitted to pulling the trigger, but has always maintained it was an accident.

He was 17 at the time of the shooting.

Prosecutors argued McGowan’s age is no excuse for his actions.

“The judge had an incredible decision to make, she weighed all the factors,” said defense attorney Jude Faccidomo. “This is a tragedy from the beginning, but it was accidental shooting.”

The young man was sentenced to a year in prison, mitigated to the county boot camp program with 4 years of probation. In addition to his sentence, McGowan must also visit high schools to share his story of regret, and talk about what happened when he decided to play with a loaded gun.

The punishment served felt painfully unfair to the victim’s family.

Outside the courtroom, the family’s emotions continued to run high, resulting in the family getting into a dispute with officers.

RAW FOOTAGE: Video shows distraught family getting into dispute with officers outside courtroom (WARNING: Video contains profane language. Viewer discretion is advised.)

A family distraught by what they believe was a lenient sentence for their daughter and sister’s killer got into a heated exchange with officers outside the courtroom Thursday.

Rengifo’s brother is heard in video footage telling one of the officers to let go of his neck as several officers are escorting him away from the courtroom.

Another officer is seen holding that officer back with his arm, eventually separating the two and telling the officer calmly to “let him go.”

“This is what you call justice here in America?” Jackson later posted on her Instagram page. “This judge gave this man who killed my sister @gigibratz a few months of ‘BOOTCAMP’ and ‘PROBATION.’ 2 years of torture!!!! Playing with my family. Letting us beg in court to give this man years and they gave him NOTHING!”

Jackson also lashed out about the officer who grabbed the back of her brother’s neck.

“Then for this one particular cop that had it in for my brother came and chocked (sic) him grabbing his neck then had the (expletive) audacity to reach for his weapon,” she wrote.

“We as the Rengifo family feel and know that the verdict was wrong on every level,” the victim’s mother said in a statement Friday. “We feel cheated by the system, we feel cheated by the court, and we feel cheated by the judge.”

Catherine Jackson ridiculed the trial, saying her family provided video evidence from the night in question that proved it wasn’t an accident, but said no witnesses who were at the Airbnb where the shooting occurred were called to testify.

“How can the judge give someone boot camp, time served, and probation, when Michael McGowan who point(ed) a gun at our daughter’s head knowing there was a bullet in the chamber and then pull the trigger,” Jackson said. “The judge sentenced him as a youthful offender, gave him a slap on the wrist, and then reward(ed) him by making him go to schools to talk to the youth as if he’s a hero. Just what we need- another killer in our schools. This is insanity. This was no accident. This is a slap in the face. There was no justice served!”


About the Authors:

Christian De La Rosa joined Local 10 News in April 2017 after spending time as a reporter and anchor in Atlanta, San Diego, Orlando and Panama City Beach.

Amanda Batchelor is the Digital Executive Producer for Local10.com.