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Charlottesville man convicted in toddler-shooting case now facing assault charge

A little boy named Sa-Royal Owens hadn’t yet reached his second birthday when he was shot in the head by his 3-year-old brother in a downtown Charlottesville apartment two years ago.

Now, one of the two people convicted for allowing an unattended gun to get into a child’s hands, R’Quis Nathan Jones, is back in court, this time facing a charge of assault and battery of a family member.

“[He] proceeded to try to grab baby out of my arms,” wrote the alleged victim, Fatima Noemy Espindola, of the Dec. 29 incident. “Pushed me with baby in my hands.”

Standing in Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court on March 4, Jones was informed that a conviction on this charge or another charge he faces, failure to appear, could lead to jail time. He told the judge that he intended to get the Office of the Public Defender to represent him.

The 22-year-old man has one prior conviction for failure to appear for a court hearing. However, it was an apparent flight from justice after the child’s shooting that particularly concerned Charlottesville police, who reached out for the public’s assistance tracking down Jones and the child’s mother.

While the little boy was reportedly in critical condition and facing emergency surgery, his mother allegedly slipped out of the University of Virginia hospital. She and Jones were arrested a week later.

What happened on Jan. 14, 2022, seemed to shock even the investigator, Charlottesville police detective Alexander Blank.

“[There was] a large amount of blood located on the floor and the bed,” he wrote in his criminal complaint. “The child’s expectation for survival was unclear at this point based on the severity of his injuries.”

As Blank inspected the apartment on South First Street, a public housing apartment leased to Jones, he noted the squalid conditions.

“There is obvious trash and dirt with the entire apartment being in almost unlivable condition,” he wrote.

Blank’s search failed to uncover a firearm, but he did report finding several .380 cartridges on the floor.

“Several of these loose cartridges were located under the couch for anyone to access,” wrote Blank, adding that he saw a bullet hole about three feet above a bed, which he found soaked in blood.

“During this search we were unable to locate any safe, lock box, gun lock or any other mechanism used for safely storing firearms or firearm components,” Blank wrote.

Acting under a search warrant, Blank reported that he saw in plain view at least a dozen manipulated money orders that convinced him and detective Jacob Russell Bowlin that something else was afoot.

“A separate search warrant,” Bowlin wrote, “for the fraudulent money orders from Western Union Financial was obtained.”

Bowlin reported seizing a pair of $1 money orders that had been altered to read $350. He alleged that 11 more money orders had been adjusted from their $1 face value to $493 each.

“It appears that Mr. Jones is scratching the top layer of paper on the money order that displays the amount of one dollar,” Bowlin wrote. “Mr. Jones then prints the larger amount of money in the place of where the amount of one dollar was.”

The detective said that he found a template for practicing how to print new monetary amounts as well as a homemade how-to guide.

“There was a composition book collected in the residence where there were multiple phrases written pertaining to check writing software and putting credentials on checks,” Bowlin wrote.

At that time, Jones was facing a credit card fraud charge in Albemarle County General District Court and an assault charge in Charlottesville General District Court. Those charges were eventually dismissed, but police pressed a forgery charge for the modified money orders along with a child abuse charge in Charlottesville Circuit Court.

There, in July 2022, Jones was convicted both of forgery and child abuse. While the entirety of the child abuse sentence was suspended, Jones was handed a six-month active term on the forgery charge along with a demand of five years of good behavior.

The court record is silent on whom the gun belonged to or whether it was ever found, although in a bedside interview, the child’s mother allegedly claimed that the gun belonged to Jones.

The mother, 24-year-old Diamond Djenne Owens of Waldorf, Maryland, allegedly told Blank that she had met Jones online and moved into his apartment with her children just two months before the incident.

“It is clear Miss Owens was aware that a firearm was in the home at 924 S. First St. Apt. C based on her own admissions,” Blank wrote.

In 2022, Owens was convicted of child abuse, but her sentencing was delayed by a defense motion until January 2023, when she received a sentence of four months and 10 days, which was the amount of her time served.

Jones is due back in court on the assault charge on March 26.


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