Girl's family to sue over shooting at Bremerton school
The parents of a 9-year-old girl who was accidentally shot in a Bremerton classroom in February have filed a $10 million claim against the Bremerton School District as well as a lawsuit against the family of the boy who brought the gun to school.
Seattle Times staff reporter
The parents of a 9-year-old girl who was accidentally shot in a Bremerton classroom in February have filed a $10 million claim against the Bremerton School District as well as a lawsuit against the family of the boy who brought the handgun to school.
The claim filed by Amina Kocer-Bowman's family alleges that officials at Armin Jahr Elementary School were aware the boy had been acting out, should have known he had talked about bringing a gun to school and should have intervened.
The lawsuit, filed in Kitsap County Superior Court, claims the boy's uncle, father, mother and the mother's boyfriend were all negligent in allowing the child to have access to the firearm.
"Children model and mimic the behavior of their parents.... ," said the Bowman's attorney, Jeff Campiche. "We have brought suit against them because they entrusted firearms to a child and also let this child believe that the .45-caliber handgun is appropriate protection against bullying at the school."
The claim against the school district is a precursor to a lawsuit, which Campiche said will be filed in 60 days.
A spokeswoman for the school district declined to comment on the claim.
Amina was wounded when the .45-caliber handgun discharged while it was in the backpack of the 9-year-old boy on Feb. 22 at Armin Jahr Elementary School. Amina underwent five surgeries at Seattle's Harborview Medical Center before her release April 3.
The boy, who is not being named because he was prosecuted as a juvenile, pleaded guilty in March to reckless endangerment and bringing a weapon to school. He was sentenced to probation and counseling.
According to the lawsuit, the boy told police he'd brought the gun to school to protect himself from bullies. He said he'd gotten it while visiting his mother.
The boy was living with his uncle, who is his legal guardian, and his father at the time of the shooting, but he had visited his mother, Jamie Lee Chaffin, 34, and her boyfriend Douglas L. Bauer, 50, at their Allyn-area home where police said there were several loaded, unlocked weapons lying in open view.
Chaffin and Bauer were charged with assault for what prosecutors described as their negligence in leaving the loaded gun where the boy could find it.
In a plea deal, Chaffin, a felon, pleaded guilty to two counts of unlawful possession of a firearm and prosecutors dropped the third-degree felony assault charge. She has not been sentenced.
Bauer pleaded not guilty to assault and unlawful weapons possession and is awaiting trial.
At a news conference Wednesday, Amina's parents said the past few months have been difficult. They still don't know what long-term consequences her injuries could bring, John and Teri Bowman said.
According to the claim against the school district, the boy who brought the gun to school had been acting out and fighting. The claim also says the boy had told several other children he planned to bring a gun to school.
"It wasn't a surprise he had a handgun at school," Campiche said. "He had announced his intentions to bring a gun to the school to a number of people. Unfortunately the people who are responsible for the safety of the school did not have a system in place that picked that up."
Campiche said the Bremerton School District's policies on controlling and stopping bullying fall short of state and national standards. The standards direct a school to gather information about the threat, assess the level of danger and to act, he said.
In the fall, Campiche said, Amina will be going to a small, Catholic school near the family's home in Bremerton that the family believes is safer.
Christine Clarridge: 206-464-8983 or email@example.com
Seattle Times news researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this report, which includes information from Times archives.