Seattle photojournalist Karen Ducey | multimedia, news, and documentary photographer

STORIES: This is No Joke

"THIS IS NOT A JOKE. THIS IS MY LIFE"

When 16-year-old Jordan Jantoc brought a handgun into his house, he had no idea of the consequences it would have. He thought only one thing: This “is cool.”

On a late September evening in 2006, while showing it off to his siblings, Jordan accidentally shot and killed his brother and best friend, Michael.

The tragedy sent Jordan’s close-knit family on an unusual journey of grieving; mourning the death of one son, while facing the possible loss of another to state prison.

Photojournalist Karen Ducey followed the family for a year documenting the enormous toll that teenagers playing with guns can have on a family.

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Jordan's mother, Lena Jantoc, tenderly caresses her son Michael’s face as she dresses him in preparation for his viewing at the Greenwood Memorial Park Cemetery.  “Our lives will never be the same,” she said.    © Karen Ducey/ Seattle PI
  
Sitting on the floor at his brother’s funeral, Jordan stares at the casket as girls from Evergreen High School offer roses to his parents.    © Karen Ducey/ Seattle PI
     
  
Under house arrest, just after arriving home from his first detention at the King County Jail, Jordan Jantoc stares out the window of his living room at family members rehearsing songs for Michael’s funeral.  “I was scared,” he later said.  “I didn’t really want to see them. I didn’t know what they would say or think.”    © Karen Ducey/ Seattle PI
  
Jordan appears in court in Seattle six months after his brother's death.  He turned 16 just four days after accidentally shooting his brother, and the state charged him as an adult.  He faces eight years in jail.  He was detained in adult prison twice during his year on home detention, this time for going to football practice after school without the knowledge of his social worker.    © Karen Ducey/ Seattle PI
  
Weeks after Michael's death, Michael and Jordan’s parents, Tim Miller, left, Lena Jantoc, and Jordan’s biological father, Lorenzo Jantoc, react with relief in the King County Courthouse after a judge announced that Jordan would be placed under house arrest and could leave jail. Having lost Michael, they feared losing their other son, Jordan, into the adult prison system.    © Karen Ducey/ Seattle PI
     
  
Jordan is surrounded by cousins and a sister at home, a few weeks after he accidentally shot and killed his stepbrother. “I’m pretty sure anger existed at one point or another for most of us, maybe even all of us,” said one of Jordan’s older brothers.  “I wouldn’t say it was overridden by love but it was coupled with it.”    © Karen Ducey/ Seattle PI
  
Teacher Gwen Sweeney talks to Jordan after he missed a class. He said he was in the gym rehearsing dance moves with other kids from the Pacific Islander Club.  The teenager was having trouble at school and often found loitering in the hallways.    © Karen Ducey/ Seattle PI
  
Five months after accidentally killing his brother, Jordan Jantoc jokes around with new friends.  Once a student at Evergreen High School, the district made him switch schools, fearing there would be reprisals from students angry over Michael’s death.    © Karen Ducey/Seattle PI
     
  
Hugged by their mother, siblings mourn their older brother's death at a holiday service at the Greenwood Memorial Park Cemetery in Renton, Wash. on Sunday, December 10, 2006.  Their older brother, Michael Miller, had been killed several months ago after he was accidentally shot by another teenage brother while the two were playing with a handgun in the family's home.  “I really miss him,” says Mataio Jantoc, 10 (right).  “Even though we’re little, this has had one of the biggest impacts in our life and it just really hurts.”  From left to right: Tim Miller, father, Merina Sanchez, 5, Brittany Walker, 8, and Mataio Jantoc, 10. They are hugged by their mother, Lena Jantoc, from behind. (© Karen Ducey/ Seattle PI)
  
Jordan plays football in the street in front of his house where a memorial to his brother still stands.  He dreams of being a football player someday.    © Karen Ducey/ Seattle PI
  
At Jordan's sentencing in a King County courtroom, stepfather Tim Miller, who has raised Jordan since he was 5, pleads with the judge for leniency, even as he continues to mourn the death of his own son. “In a very real, tangible way, when this court sentences Jordan, it will be sentencing every member of our family.” He feared the softhearted boy would return to the family as a hardened man after years spent in adult prison.    © Karen Ducey/Seattle PI
     
  
Almost a full year after fatally shooting his brother, Jordan hugs relatives after a judge spared him from doing time in prison.  “This case is all too familiar,” said Judge Harry McCarthy. “Instances of young offenders having easy access, the lure of firearms and deadly consequences.”   He ruled that the interests of both the defendant and community would best be served by continued electronic home monitoring of Jordan for two years.  After that time is served, Jordan and his father will be required to speak to the community about the dangers of firearms.