U.S. boy, 9, charged in shooting may testify against mom

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 06, 2012 10:48 PM
U.S. boy, 9, charged in shooting may testify against mom

By Laura L. Myers

SEATTLE (Reuters) - A 9-year-old boy charged in the accidental shooting of a classmate with a gun he said he brought to school to fend off bullies has agreed to testify against his mother on weapons offenses as part of a deal with prosecutors, his lawyer said on Tuesday.

Police in Bremerton, Washington, where the shooting took place, have said the boy's mother and her boyfriend were to blame for leaving the handgun in question unattended and easily accessible for her son to take.

Arrest warrants have been issued against the couple, Jamie Lee Passmore and Douglas Bauer, accusing them of various firearms violations in connection with the case.

Under terms of an agreement reached on Tuesday in juvenile court in Kitsap County, the boy acknowledged wrongdoing in the wounding of his 8-year-old classmate, Amina Kocer-Bowman, and waived his right to a trial.

The deal requires him to remain in the custody of his paternal uncle, to submit a sample of his DNA, to avoid further contact with his mother, and to write a letter of apology to the girl and her family, court documents for the agreement show.

Moreover, he must undergo counseling and will be placed on supervised juvenile probation for a year.

The boy, who was a third-grade student at Armin Jahr Elementary School in Bremerton, Washington, about 70 miles west of Seattle, was originally charged with assault, bringing a dangerous weapon onto school grounds and unlawful possession of a firearm.

But prosecutors reduced the assault charge to a lesser offense of reckless endangerment as part of Tuesday's disposition.

Appearing in court during the proceeding, the boy admitted bringing a loaded .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol to school, where it went off in his backpack, critically wounding the 8-year-old girl.

She was listed in critical condition with gunshot wounds to her arm and abdomen immediately after the incident and has since undergone five operations. Her condition has been upgraded to serious but she remains sedated and connected to a ventilator with a bullet lodged near her spine, a spokeswoman at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle said.

If the boy fully complies with terms of his deal, all three charges against him can be dismissed by a judge at a court hearing set for next February.

"We believe this is an appropriate resolution to this case," Kitsap County juvenile prosecutor Todd Dowell said after the 40-minute hearing on Tuesday. "We want him to get counseling, treatment and help."

As part of the deal, the boy has promised to testify if necessary against his mother and her boyfriend, defense lawyer Eric John Makus told Reuters. The boy's agreement to cooperate with authorities in the prosecution was cited in a confidential memo between the defense and prosecutors, Makus said.

"We'll cooperate with law enforcement even if it leads to the boy testifying against his biological mother," Makus said.

Both Makus and the boy's uncle, Patrick Cochran, said the third-grader was bullied at school and brought the gun with him in his backpack for protection.

(Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Eric Beech)