By Nicole Neroulias
SEATTLE (Reuters) - A Washington state woman pleaded guilty on Tuesday to weapons charges stemming from her 9-year-old son's accidental shooting of a classmate with a loaded gun he found in his mother's car, according to attorneys in the case.
Police in Bremerton, Washington, where the shooting took place, said the .45-caliber handgun the boy brought to school belonged to the mother's boyfriend, but they believed the child took it from the glove box of the vehicle she drove.
The semiautomatic pistol, which the boy has said he was carrying as protection against bullies, went off in his backpack at the Armin Jahr Elementary School on February 22, critically wounding an 8-year-old girl, Amina Kocer-Bowman.
Both children were in third grade at the school, located about 70 miles west of Seattle.
The boy, who lives with his paternal uncle, was sentenced in March to 12 months of supervised probation and ordered to undergo counseling as part of a plea deal with prosecutors in Kitsap County juvenile court.
He also wrote a letter of apology to his classmate and agreed to testify against his mother, Jamie Chaffin.
That became unnecessary on Tuesday, when Chaffin, already a convicted felon barred from carrying a gun, pleaded guilty to two felony counts of unlawful possession of a firearm and agreed in turn to testify against her boyfriend, Douglas Bauer.
An assault charge against Chaffin was dismissed as part of her plea deal, but she faces 12 to 16 months in prison when sentenced following Bauer's trial, now scheduled for July.
Bauer remains charged with felony third-degree assault for what prosecutors say was his role in negligently allowing the boy access to his gun. If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison, said Kitsap County Deputy Prosecutor Jeremy Morris.
An attorney for relatives of the wounded girl said the family was upset by the outcome of the mother's plea deal.
"Their disappointment was based on the fact that the assault charge ... was dismissed and the person who bore responsibility for the shooting of their child was absolved of that responsibility by the plea bargain," lawyer Jeffery Campiche said. "The crime, as the Bowman family sees it, was the horror of the discharge of a handgun in an elementary school classroom, not the fact that a felon possessed a handgun."
Amina, now 9, has undergone numerous surgeries since she was shot and continues a difficult recovery from a shattered elbow and severe damage to internal organs, including her liver, spleen and a kidney, Campiche told Reuters.
Discharged from the hospital in early April, the girl is recuperating from home, and her mother was forced to quit her job to tend to her daughter, he said. The family does not know when Amina will be able to return to school.
(This story refiled to fix lawyer's first name in 11th paragraph)
(Editing by Steve Gorman and Paul Simao)