Counseling for boy, 9, in Bremerton school shooting
The 9-year-old Bremerton boy who took to school a handgun that accidentally discharged and critically wounded a classmate pleaded guilty Tuesday to three criminal charges, but will face probation and treatment rather than juvenile detention. Amina Kocer-Bowman, 8, was wounded when the .45-caliber handgun accidentally discharged near the end of the school day on Feb. 22.
Seattle Times staff reporter
PORT ORCHARD — At the age of 9 he's endured more challenges than some people face in a lifetime.
And now, after pleading guilty Tuesday to bringing to school a handgun that accidentally discharged and critically wounded a classmate, he has a criminal record.
But Kitsap County prosecutors believe there's hope for the 75-pound boy with the buzz cut and blue eyes. That's why they agreed to a plea deal that spares him from juvenile detention in favor of probation and counseling.
"The whole intent and purpose of the Juvenile Justice Act is to rehabilitate juvenile offenders as well as to hold them accountable," said Senior Deputy Prosecutor Todd Dowell.
Prosecutors plan to also hold accountable the two people police say provided access to the handgun the boy brought to school: his mother and her boyfriend. Under the plea deal, the boy agreed to testify against them in court, if necessary.
"I'm sorry," the Bremerton boy said Tuesday before being sentenced in Kitsap County Juvenile Court to three misdemeanor charges — reckless endangerment, unlawful possession of a firearm and bringing a weapon to school.
The charges stemmed from a shooting Feb. 22 at Bremerton's Armin Jahr Elementary School.
According to police and prosecutors, the boy took a loaded .45-caliber semiautomatic handgun from the home of his mother and her boyfriend during a visit a few days earlier.
He placed the loaded handgun in his backpack and the weapon accidentally discharged when he dropped his backpack on a desk at the close of school. Eight-year-old Amina Kocer-Bowman was wounded by the bullet that lodged near her spine.
She has undergone five surgeries at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where she remains in serious condition, according to a hospital spokeswoman.
At Tuesday's hearing, the boy acknowledged to Judge M. Karlynn Haberly that he could distinguish right from wrong and knew it was wrong when he brought the gun to school. Under state law, children between the ages of 8 and 12 can face criminal charges only if a court determines the child has the capacity to understand an act is wrong.
The Seattle Times is not naming the boy because he was charged as a juvenile.
Terms of his probation include continuing his education despite his one-year expulsion from the Bremerton School District. The attorney for the boy, Eric John Makus, said he will be home-schooled while alternatives, including tutoring, are researched.
The judge also ordered him to write a letter of apology to Amina and her family. It will be submitted to the court, as he is banned from contact with her and her family.
Prosecutors dropped a charge of third-degree assault.
If he obeys all the conditions of his probation for one year, records of the charge against him will be cleared, prosecutors said.
The boy also agreed to testify against his mother, Jamie Lee Passmore, and her boyfriend, Douglas L. Bauer, who are under investigation for failing to properly secure the handgun.
Arrest warrants were issued for the couple on Monday.
The boy's parents, who both have criminal records, relinquished custody of the boy and his two siblings about three years ago and they were adopted by their paternal grandmother. After she died of pancreatic cancer in 2010, an uncle, Patrick Cochran, was appointed legal guardian for the children.
The wounded girl's parents, Teri and John Bowman, attended the hearing along with their attorney, Jeffery Campiche, who has said he intends to find someone to hold financially accountable for the girl's injuries.
Campiche said the sentence given to the boy was the result of a "logistical" decision by police and prosecutors to go after the adults who allowed access to the weapon, rather than the boy himself. He characterized it as "a bargain with an unpleasant taste to it."
Reading from a prepared statement after the hearing, John Bowman said he and his wife have grave concerns about the "volatile, unstable" home in which the boy and his siblings reside.
Campiche said the boy's uncle should never have allowed the child unsupervised visits with his mother, and that the state should have been monitoring the whole family more closely.
"There's a history of terrible parenting here," he said.
Makus said the boy's family may not appear traditional, but "it is by all accounts a loving, safe family home."
"He is intent on trying to find a villain," Makus said of Campiche. "You're not going to find a villain in my 9-year-old client."
Information from The Seattle Times archives is included in this report.