SEATTLE — A prosecutor said he will try to stretch the law to go after a Bremerton woman and her boyfriend who are accused of having a role in a shooting that critically wounded an 8-year-old girl when the woman's 9-year-old son took a gun to school.
The couple were charged with unlawful possession of a firearm and felony assault for allowing the boy access to the gun, Kitsap County Prosecutor Russ Hauge said.
"It's not been done before, that we know, but we're confident in our research," he said Thursday. "We think the law in Washington is sound – that under the definition of cause that Washington uses, the situation that was created by the mother and boyfriend that allowed the boy to come into possession amounts to them being legally responsible for it."
The boy took the .45-caliber handgun from a car glove box and brought it to Armin Jahr Elementary on Feb. 22 in a backpack, authorities said. It fired when he dropped the backpack on a desk.
The bullet struck Amina Kocer-Bowman, who remains in Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. The little girl was transferred out of the intensive care unit Thursday and is now listed in satisfactory condition, a hospital spokeswoman said. The child has a shattered elbow and serious injuries to internal organs. The bullet is still lodged in muscle near her spine.
Hauge initially charged the boy's mother, Jamie Lee Chaffin, and her boyfriend, Douglas L. Bauer, with unlawful possession of a firearm. Hauge added the third-degree assault charges Tuesday. If convicted of the felony, Chaffin and Bauer could be sentenced to up to five years in prison.
Chaffin, 34, is charged with two counts of unlawful possession of a firearm – one for allegedly having a gun in her home as a convicted felon and the second for allowing her son access to a gun. Bauer, 50, is charged with one count of allowing access.
Chaffin and Bauer both pleaded not guilty Thursday.
Chaffin was arrested during the court appearance and led away in handcuffs. She was being held on $50,000 bail as a convicted felon. She has a history of drug-related offenses, Hauge said.
Bauer has no prior record and was released without bail. Both are due back in court March 21.
Bauer's lawyer, Wayne Fricke, told the judge the assault charge was a "novel application of the law," the Kitsap Sun reported.
It is unusual to bring the unlawful possession charge for enabling access to a weapon, Hauge said, adding that there were at least three other loaded guns in the home.
"It's just one small step removed from them saying, here are the guns lying around the house; here, take one," he said.
The boy was visiting his mother, who does not have custody, when he took the handgun, which belongs to Bauer, authorities said. The boy was reportedly planning on running away and took the gun for protection. He pleaded guilty last week to reckless endangerment and was sentenced to probation and counseling. He is expected to testify in the case against his mother.
The school shooting was the first of three child shootings in three weeks in western Washington.
Last Saturday, the 7-year-old daughter of an off-duty Marysville police officer was accidentally shot and killed when a sibling found the officer's gun as the children were left alone in a van parked near the Stanwood City Hall.
On Wednesday, a 3-year-old accidentally killed himself when he found his father's gun under a car seat after the family had stopped for gas in Tacoma and the parents were out of the car.