PORT ORCHARD, Wash. (AP) — The pale 9-year-old boy spoke softly as he looked at the judge before him, his back to the parents of a wounded classmate recovering in a hospital miles away. For the first time since he took a gun from his mother's home and brought it to school, where it accidentally discharged, the boy said: "I'm sorry."
The apology came at his sentencing Tuesday, when Kitsap County Superior Court Judge Karlynn Haberly found the boy guilty of misdemeanor charges that included unlawful possession of a gun and bringing a dangerous weapon to school. Prosecutors dropped third-degree assault charges.
The boy was sentenced to 12 months of probation, to undergo 48 hours of counseling and to write a letter of apology to his 8-year-old classmate, Amina Kocer-Bowman. She remains in serious condition at a Seattle hospital, where she is sedated and requires a ventilator to help her breathe.
Amina was struck in her midsection and arm on Feb. 22, when the gun went off as the boy slammed his bag on a desk in a Bremerton classroom. Her family is worried her wounds have become infected, her father said.
"Amina's life has been forever altered, along with the rest of our family, due to the breakdown of a system that allows parents deemed unfit by the state to have unrestricted access to this student and his siblings," John Bowman said.
The case has put the boy's family under the scrutiny of authorities, who on Monday issued arrest warrants for his mother, Jamie Lee Passmore, and her boyfriend, Douglas L. Bauer. Police allege that the couple left several guns unsecured in their home, allowing the boy to gain access to the .45 caliber gun that he brought to school.
Passmore, who is a felon, is not allowed to own firearms, although investigators found guns in her home on the day of the school shooting. Bremerton police Lt. Peter Fisher said the warrant for Passmore lists two second-degree counts of unlawful possession of a firearm, while Bauer is wanted for a second-degree count of unlawful possession of a firearm.
The couple is reportedly on vacation in Las Vegas for a NASCAR event, said the boy's attorney, Eric John Makus. Fisher said police were "confident" that the couple will return later this month.
Twenty-seven states have some form of law preventing firearm access to children. 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.
Court documents show the boy's parents have a lengthy criminal and drug abuse history. His grandmother had adopted him but died in late 2010 from pancreatic cancer. His legal guardian now is his uncle, who again apologized to the girl's family on Tuesday.
As part of his sentence, the boy was ordered not to contact his mother or her boyfriend. As Haberly laid out the terms, she turned to Amina's parents and said: "I hope your nightmare ends at some point."
She added: "There is a lot of tragedy here on lots of levels, in (the boy's) life, too."