Boy, 9, charged in shooting of third-grade classmate

Reuters News
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Posted: Feb 23, 2012 7:03 PM
Boy, 9, charged in shooting of third-grade classmate

By Laura L. Myers

PORT ORCHARD, Washington (Reuters) - A 9-year-old Washington state boy accused of bringing a loaded handgun to third-grade, where it went off in his backpack and critically wounded a classmate, was charged on Thursday with assault and unlawful possession of a firearm.

Meanwhile the 8-year-old victim, Amina Kocer-Bowman, was listed in critical condition in the intensive care unit at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, one day after suffering gunshot wounds to her arm and abdomen.

The boy, a third-grade student at Armin Jahr Elementary School in Bremerton, Washington, was charged with one count each of third-degree assault, unlawful possession of a firearm and possession of a firearm on school grounds.

During a brief hearing in Kitsap County Superior Court a judge ordered him held on $50,000 bail until a March 7 hearing, required by Washington state law for juvenile defendants, to decide if he has the capacity to determine right from wrong.

Appearing in court flanked by his father and uncle and dressed in an orange jail jumpsuit, the boy spoke softly, answering "yes" or "no" to questions from the judge and telling her that he had difficulty reading.

Prosecutors said he faces up to 30 days detention, a year of probation and 150 hours of community service for each count if convicted.

"I just want everyone to know he's a good kid," the boy's father told reporters outside court. "The weapon was not mine."

The school, which was placed on lockdown following the shooting before students were dismissed for the day, reopened on Thursday

"Teachers really want the students to come back to school. Talking to grief counselors so close to the event is really the best way to deal with this," Bremerton School District spokeswoman Patty Glaser said.

"Teachers believe it's the best thing for students to be back at school," she said.

In a probable cause document filed in the juvenile division of Kitsap County Superior Court on Thursday, prosecutors said police responded to the school at 1:29 p.m. on Wednesday and found Kocer-Bowman suffering from the gunshot wounds and being attended to by a teacher.

School staff and police found a loaded .45 caliber Heckler and Koch pistol in the boy's backpack, which was ripped open at the bottom where the muzzle of the gun had been pointed, prosecutors said in the court papers.

Several students told investigators that they heard the gun go off when the boy slammed his backpack on a desk and one described Kocer-Bowman dropping to the floor, bleeding and with a hole in her stomach, according to the document.

Two students told investigators that the boy had earlier told them that he planned to bring his dad's gun to school and run away, prosecutors said in the papers.

(Writing and additional reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Dan Burns)