BREMERTON, Wash. -- A state appeals court is determining whether the owner of a gun can be charged with assault for the shooting that nearly killed a 9-year-old girl in February at a Bremerton school.
Kitsap County prosecutors charged Douglas Bauer because he owns the pistol his girlfriend's son took to Armin Jahr Elementary. It fired through his backpack, critically wounding the boy's classmate Amina Kocer-Bowman in a classroom at Arnin Jahr Elementary.
During the appeals hearing Monday, a three-panel judge listened to arguments from the prosecution and Bauer's lawyer, Wayne Fricke, who said his client did cause the shooting.
"Leaving loaded firearms in a bedroom where a 9-year-old sleeps - perhaps on the floor next to where he sleeps, there some evidence of that - is not a reasonable thing to do. Some parental supervision, some precautions make that negligent," argued a Kitsap County prosecutor.
"The facts are just not there to support liability," said Fricke.
Afterward, Fricke left the appeals hearing feeling confident the law will be on his side.
"There's difference between civil liability and criminal liability. Just to get revenge against someone who is not liable just because you think something should happen, that's not the right venue for this. There are appropriate venues, but a criminal prosecution is not one of them," said Fricke.
It could be weeks, even months, before the state court of appeals decides whether prosecutors can go ahead with the assault charge before the case can go before a jury trial.
Amina Bowman's parents were in court overseeing the court proceedings. The family released the following statement:
Today's hearing addressed whether an adut can be held criminally responsible for purposfully leaving deadly loaded weapons in plain sight accessible to a child. In this case, there were a number of loaded firearms in areas that the third grader had access to. The living room, bedroom, on the computer table....
While there is NO question there is civil responsibility for such negligence, we hope that justice in this regard as a matter of public safety is supported by the Appeals Court.
The Bowman Family
The boy pleaded guilty to reckless endangerment and was sentenced to counseling. The boy's mother has pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of a firearm as a felon.
KING 5's Teresa Yuan contributed to this report.