DA: Case should be a warning

Father of child who found handgun writes school a letter of apology

A Craig man who pleaded guilty to child abuse after his son took a handgun to school is working to fulfill the conditions of the agreement he made with the District Attorney's office.

He recently wrote a letter of apology to the preschool his son attended. The staff were "very traumatized" by the April 4 incident, in which a 5-year-old boy brought a loaded .357 Ruger handgun to class, according to District Attorney Bonnie Roesink.

According to investigators, the boy found the gun under the seat of his father's truck. The man had used the weapon the previous weekend for target practice shooting. He was charged in June after a lengthy investigation by the District Attorney's office. He pleaded guilty in September, and continues to comply with the terms of his deferred sentence.

Roesink said her office was pressured by concerned citizens who thought there would be no charges filed in the case. Shortly after the incident, the Moffat County Sheriff's office said there would be no charges against the boy, who acted with no "malicious intent."

Roesink said people confused the boy's culpability with that of the father.

"Of course we weren't going to charge the 5-year-old," Roesink said, noting that statutes prohibit incriminating children younger than age 10.

But the father was found criminally negligent and charged with a misdemeanor count of child abuse.

Roesink said she sees the case as a warning and an educational opportunity for parents who should know that "they can be held responsible" in such cases.

"This happens a lot more than it should happen," Roesink said. "These guns should not be accessible. This is a very dangerous situation."

While some parents may say they've taught their children to "know better," Roesink said, that's unrealistic.

"People say they teach their children not to touch guns," Roesink said. "I don't think you can teach a child that young not to touch a gun."

Roesink said she is aware of studies that indicate a young child's curiosity can overcome what they've been taught.

"Children that young will be fascinated by a firearm," Roesink said.

In addition to the letter of apology, the child's father must perform 50 hours of community service, pay $300 to the Special Offender's Fund and follow a Social Services treatment plan that includes parenting classes and a gun safety class. He also must not commit any criminal offenses in excess of a 4-point traffic violation for a period of one year.

Upon completion of the terms of the agreement, the District Attorney will file a motion to dismiss the case.

Jeremy Browning can be reached at 824-7031 or jbrowning@craigdailypress.com.

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