The boy was charged with unlawful possession of a gun, bringing a dangerous weapon to school and third-degree assault charges. Authorities believe he got the weapon during a visitation with his mother over the weekend, according to charging documents released Thursday. The documents state that the boy told a classmate about five days ago that he was going to bring his "dad's gun" to school and run away. The gun discharged after the boy slammed his backpack down on a desk, the documents said.
"He has a lot of good in his heart," Poss said of the boy. "I know he didn't intend this to happen. And I know he's hurting tonight."
Court documents show Jamie Lee Chaffin, who is listed as the boy's mother in a child support case, sued the boy's father for failing to pay child support. She also has been in and out of the court system, according to court documents.
In 2005, she was arrested for possession of meth in Bremerton but pleaded guilty to a drug paraphernalia charge. She also was convicted of marijuana deliver and forgery.
Twenty-seven states have some form of firearm child access prevention laws. Such laws can include criminal penalties for adults who allow children to get their hands on guns, but Washington is not one of those states, according to the San Francisco-based Legal Community Against Violence.
Gail Hammer, a law professor at Gonzaga University in Spokane, said it is very rare for a child as young as 9 to be charged with a crime. Even if a young child is convicted, he wouldn't be sent to an adult prison, Hammer said.
"Generally with young children they try to deal with it in the juvenile system," she said.
In Olympia, the Seattle Democrat who chairs the state Senate Judiciary Committee said there is a lapse in state law. "We do not hold people very accountable in this state for leaving guns around the house with small children," Sen. Adam Kline said.
Kline said that he would consider a bill to address it during the next legislative session next year, but didn't sound hopeful of its chances.
There have been shootings at schools that involved younger children. In 2000, 6-year-old Kayla Rolland, a Michigan first-grader, was fatally shot by a 6-year-old classmate who brought a gun from home. That classmate was not criminally charged; prosecutors said he was too young to be held responsible. Last year, a 6-year-old kindergartner at a Houston elementary school accidentally fired a gun as he was showing it off to friends, injuring three students.
Bremerton Schools spokeswoman Patty Glaser said the school where Wednesday's shooting happened, with about 400 students, was open for classes Thursday with 10 counselors available to talk with teachers, students and parents. The school is in a quiet residential neighborhood about 20 miles west of Seattle, across Puget Sound.
Patrick Cochran said the boy's grandmother adopted him, but she died a year ago and he became the child's legal guardian. He said he lives with the boy's father, and the boy's two sisters.
As court officers led the boy away after the hearing, his father hugged him and gave him a kiss. Both had tears in their eyes.
Associated Press writers Rachel La Corte in Olympia, Wash., and Nicholas K. Geranios in Spokane, Wash., contributed to this report.
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