DA will not press charges in accidental shooting of Flora Vista girl

Steve Garrison The Daily Times
The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — The San Juan County District Attorney's Office said Friday it would not file charges against the father of an 8-year-old girl injured in an accidental shooting in January.

San Juan County Chief Deputy District Attorney Dustin O'Brien said his decision was made after considering case law and the details of the shooting. He acknowledged some attorneys and community members may not agree with his decision.

"The father did not follow basic and universally accepted firearm safety rules," O'Brien said. "There is no question that that is negligent. The problem is that the standard for criminal negligence is higher."

Deputies from the San Juan County Sheriff's Office were dispatched the afternoon of Jan. 19 to the Urgent Care location at 4820 E. Main St. after receiving reports that a child had been brought to the facility in critical condition after being shot by her 6-year-old sister.

The girl's father told detectives the girl was helping him and her sister clean the family's home on County Road 3451 in Flora Vista that afternoon. The father picked up a 22-caliber rifle, handed it to the younger sister and told her to take it to a different room.

The younger sister playfully pointed the gun at her sister and pulled the trigger.

The rifle discharged, and the bullet struck the 8-year-old girl in the neck.

The girl's mother, Teresa Bean, previously told The Daily Times that the family's phone had been disconnected, and the neighbors were not home, so her husband could not call 911.

She said the family has removed all firearms from the home as a result of the accident, and her husband suffers from incredible guilt.

O'Brien said the fact that the father was cooperative with law enforcement officers and not intoxicated when the incident occurred were important factors in his decision not to file charges.

"The police that investigated this, he was not trying to hide something from them," O'Brien said. "He was shocked and scared."

The father, who has not been identified, potentially faced charges of child abuse, a third-degree felony, or negligent use of a deadly weapon, a petty misdemeanor.

Sheriff's detective Lt. Kyle Lincoln said he informed the family of the district attorney's decision Friday afternoon.

Steve Garrison covers crime and courts for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644 and Follow him on Twitter @SteveGarrisonDT on Twitter.