PA Cop Charged for Child’s Negligent Discharge Death

First time I’ve ever heard of a police officer—or anyone else—being charged after a child gets a hold of an improperly stored firearm and causes a negligent discharge leading to their death. I approve. You?

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About Robert Farago

Robert Farago is the Publisher of The Truth About Guns (TTAG). He started the site to explore the ethics, morality, business, politics, culture, technology, practice, strategy, dangers and fun of guns.

14 Responses to PA Cop Charged for Child’s Negligent Discharge Death

  1. avatarTravis Leibold says:

    Here in AZ, every so often, a parent forgets their child in the car in the summer time when it is 110+ degrees out. There is always debate about whether or not they should see jail time, or if the the loss of thier child by their own hand is punishment enough. How much further damage would be caused to a family that is already suffering a grievous wound?
    Tough question…. would the threat of jail time help to reduce these tragedies?

  2. avatarTim says:

    Sad – not sure I approve though – tough choice. Certainly safety comes first with firearms, but here is ostensibly one of our “good” LE people who not only lost a son through a tragic accident but him and his wife’s lives are destroyed. There is nothing the state can do will be justice or will compare to the loss of a child. Just a horrible tragedy.

  3. avatarDonWorsham says:

    It’s nobodys business but the family. They made a tragic mistake. They are paying for it.

  4. avatarstateisevil says:

    If a family member brings charges against the father, then that would be acceptable. This is the correct and libertarian point of view. Charges cannot be filed by “Society”-that is a statist and tyrannical point of view. Only individuals exist. The family will probably believe that there is suffering enough at this point.

  5. Nope. There are no safe storage laws in Pennsylvania. They’ve tried to pass them in the legislature and failed. Attempting to impose them at trial is basically the Commonwealth’s Executive branch attempting to usurp the authority of the Legislative branch.

    Let’s look at the charges:
    Involuntary Manslaughter:General rule – A person is guilty of involuntary manslaughter when as a direct result of the doing of an unlawful act in a reckless or grossly negligent manner, or the doing of a lawful act in a reckless or grossly negligent manner, he causes the death of another person. http://wings.buffalo.edu/law/bclc/web/pa2504.html

    Clearly they can’t claim the act of leaving the firearm unlocked is unlawful, because it isn’t. So what they have to prove is that leaving it unlocked was reckless or grossly negligent. That’s a high bar.

    Endangering the welfare of a child: he knowingly endangers the welfare of the child by violating a duty of care, protection or support. http://law.onecle.com/pennsylvania/crimes-and-offenses/00.043.004.000.html

    Here the DA would have to prove that there was a duty to care that included locking up firearms beyond what is required by law. Good luck with that.

    The final killer of this entire court case is the fact that the Supreme Court has ruled in Heller that requiring a firearm to be locked up and unusable in an instant for self defense is a violation of a person’s Second Amendment right. Any law, or application of a law, that says that a firearm must be locked up and useless for self defense is unconstitutional. Even if the jury is stupid and convicts, his conviction will be overturned on appeal.

    The proper way to handle this in court is for the Defense to ask each witness for the prosecution one question. “Is there any law in Pennsylvania that requires the owner of a firearm to lock that firearm up and make it useless for self-defense?” The answer will always be no.

  6. avatarNicholas says:

    California the law is pretty clear (California Penal Code Section 12035, “criminal storage of a firearm”): Its a felony , BUT the DA is given discretion in the law not to prosecute if its the parent. (Such discretion does NOT exist for others however).

    (e) If the person who allegedly violated this section is the
    parent or guardian of a child who is injured or who dies as the
    result of an accidental shooting, the district attorney shall
    consider, among other factors, the impact of the injury or death on
    the person alleged to have violated this section when deciding
    whether to prosecute an alleged violation. It is the Legislature’s
    intent that a parent or guardian of a child who is injured or who
    dies as the result of an accidental shooting shall be prosecuted only
    in those instances in which the parent or guardian behaved in a
    grossly negligent manner or where similarly egregious circumstances
    exist. This subdivision shall not otherwise restrict, in any manner,
    the factors that a district attorney may consider when deciding
    whether to prosecute alleged violations of this section.

  7. avatarJOE MATAFOME says:

    This poor family will never get over this horrible tragedy and that man will never forgive himself until the day he dies. CRIMINALS should go to JAIL, this man made a terrible mistake and he will never stop paying for it.

  8. avatarTexas Deputy says:

    There is a former police officer active in my law enforcement group and listserv who was convicted a few years ago in just such a case.

  9. avatarBrian Inca says:

    http://www.recorderonline.com/news/turner-27230-district-gabby.html

    http://www.recorderonline.com/news/turner-29312-clower-told.html

    http://abclocal.go.com/kfsn/story?section=news/local&id=4363020

    This is a sad story about kids playing together without having had parental firearms safety training, combined with storing a loaded pistol in an accessible location. The LEO was prosecuted and went to trial, and even with a PD was found not guilty. Pretty much treated like a “civilian” in other words, though I doubt the average urban dope dealer ever gets prosecuted and sued like this poor SOB.

    The CA laws on storage of firearms are pretty strong, but less than what responsible gun owners should see to themselves.

  10. avatarSean says:

    I just don’t know what to think on this. No jail sentence will be worse than what this man is already going through. And what he will go through for the rest of his life. I do not know what society gains from putting him in prison.

    That said, he should lose his job. And not be allowed to own firearms again.

    I just think that a simple bit of education could have prevented this tragedy. I know when I was that age, I was curious about firearms. And my fathers guns in particular. His words and actions were simple. He showed me them if I wanted to see them. Explained(and showed) me how they worked. And promised a severe ass beating if I touched them without his permission. It was highly effective.

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