School shooting prosecutor: 'Guns left out, unguarded, and loaded'

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by KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on March 15, 2012 at 7:05 AM

Updated Thursday, Mar 15 at 8:06 PM

PORT ORCHARD, Wash. - The mother of a boy who brought a gun to school, resulting in a classmate being shot, was ordered held Thursday on $50,000 bail.

Jamie Lee Chafin appeared in a Kitsap County courtroom to be arraigned along with her boyfriend, Douglas L. Bauer.

The shooting happened Feb. 22 in a classroom at Armin Jahr Elementary in Bremerton. Police say the 9-year-boy brought the .45-caliber pistol to school in a backpack. The gun inadvertently went off, hitting 8-year-old Amina Bowman.

Detectives say the boy got the gun, one of several loaded weapons kept throughout the house, during a visit with Chaffin and Bauer. Chaffin does not have custody of her children.

Kitsap County prosecutors have charged both with third degree assault. In charging documents, prosecutors accuse both of being criminally negligent.  

State law is vague on the issue of criminal responsibility in a case in which a child shoots someone after obtaining an adults firearm. Many such cases rely on the broad reckless endangerment statute, which has minimal punishment. In an unusual move, Kitsap County prosecutors charged Chaffin and her boyfriend with third degree felony assault, which could mean up to 5 years in prison if convicted.  

Prosecutors say Chaffin and Bauer were so irresponsible they need to go to jail for years, not months.  

"At least an adult in this situation should have known this was a real possibility and take reasonable small steps to prevent it," said Kitsap County Prosecutor Russ Hauge.  "[The guns] were left out, unguarded, loaded and cocked in a state where they could just literally be picked up, taken away and not even missed for a period of time."

Chaffin already faced charges for unlawful possession of firearms; as a convicted felon, she was prohibited from owning firearms.  Bauer also faced a charge for unlawful possession of a firearm in the 2nd degree for allowing the firearm to come into the boy's possession.

In court Thursday, Chaffin’s attorney asked for no bail and home monitoring, saying she is not a threat to society and has ties to the area. But the Judge Jeffrey Jahns went with the prosecution’s request for $50,000 bail. Chaffin was handcuffed and taken away.

Prosecutors asked for $25,000 bail for Bauer, but the judge ruled he would be released on his own recognizance.  

Kitsap County's prosecutor is the first in the state to file felony charges in a gun case like this.  

The boy will testify against Chaffin and Bauer in a deal with prosecutors. He will be under department supervision for a year and have to go through 48 hours of counseling.

The boy involved in the shooting lives with his father and his legal guardian, his uncle Patrick Cochran. Cochran said he is glad Chaffin is in jail.

“She’s got to pay for what she did,” said Cochran. 

Amina Bowman went to the hospital in critical condition, but has made incredible progress toward recovery. She was able to get out of bed Thursday for the first time since the shooting. 

Doctors say, with help, she was even able to take a few steps.  The bullet remains lodged near her spine.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 98 children died in 2009 as a result of accidental gun shootings. Washington state averages one child death and nine child injures per year from accidental gun shootings.

 

KING 5's Drew Mikkelsen and Roberta Romero contributed to this report.

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