The mother of a 9-year-old boy who brought a gun to his Bremerton school and inadvertently shot one of his third-grade classmates and the mother's boyfriend are charged with felony assault -- a charge that the Kitsap County prosecutor admits is unusual.
"It's a theory that's not been used in Washington that we know of," county prosecutor Russ Hauge said Thursday. "We are pushing on this, but that's our job."
Police said Jamie Lee Chaffin’s son took the gun, which belonged to Caffin’s boyfriend, Douglas Bauer, to Armin Jahr Elementary in Bremerton in his backpack on Feb 22. The gun went off in the backpack, and a bullet struck 8-year-old Amina Kocer Bowman in the stomach.
Amina, who doctors said had nearly died, was taken out of the intensive care unit at Harborview Medical Center and upgraded to satisfactory condition Thursday.
Both Chaffin and Bauer have been charged with third-degree felony assault in the case.
Bauer's lawyer, Wayne Fricke, said he can't believe his client has been charged with assault since he was never in the classroom and never held the gun that day.
But Hauge said guns were left all over the house that Bauer and Chaffin shared, creating a dangerous situation that led to the shooting.
"They were just laying around," Hauge said. "They were loaded, they were cocked, and, in fact, the evidence shows this weapon this young boy took to school wasn't even missed for a period of days."
The prosecutor said the normal charge in a case like this -- reckless endangerment, a misdemeanor -- just doesn't the cover the magnitude of what happened.
The Bremerton shooting was the first of three over the past several weeks where children have gotten ahold of loaded guns.
A 7-year-old daughter of a Marysville police officer was shot and killed by her younger brother while in their father's vehicle in Stanwood. The Snohomish County prosecutor hasn't said what charges, if any, will be filed in that case.
Most recently, a 3-year-old boy found a gun while his mother and her boyfriend stepped out of their vehicle at a gas station in Tacoma and he accidentally shot and killed himself. The Pierce County prosecutor is still reviewing what kind of charges, if any, the couple may face.
"We'll review; looking at the possibility of manslaughter, reckless endangerment, and any other charge that fits the facts," Pierce County prosecutor Mark Lindquist said.
State Sen. Adam Kline wants to introduce a bill in the Legislature to target gun owners who don't secure their firearms from children. "The law needs to put a criminal penalty on someone who leaves a gun out with children around," Kline said.
Hauge, the Kitsap County prosecutor, said he would like to see some clarity in the laws, but said if the felony assault charges stick, it will send a message.
"Mostly, it's what I think holds people accountable, and if that sends a message, so much the better," Hauge said. "But what we're really trying to say here is that this conduct is so egregious, so serious, so dangerous, that the law has to respond."
Chaffin and Bauer could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
On Thursday, a judge ordered Chaffin held on $50,000 bail based on her criminal history — she has seven outstanding warrants out of Tacoma and Puyallup. Bauer, who works for Kitsap Transit, has no criminal record and was released on his own recognizance.
The next court hearing for Chaffin and Bauer is scheduled for next Wednesday.