OLYMPIA — A 19-year-old man pleaded guilty this morning to third-degree assault for an accidentally shooting his friend in the head.
The defendant, Danial R. Coots, faces one to three months in jail.
His plea before Thurston County Superior Court Judge Chris Wickham possibly saved him from serving an 18-month prison term.
On Feb. 8, 2005, Coots, his friend, David Nelson, 18, were drinking alcohol about 1:30 a.m. with another friend’s sister, Brittany Wright, then 17, in the girl’s bedroom. The girl showed Coots a 9 mm handgun that her parents had given her for protection. While handling it, he accidentally shot Nelson in the head.
Nelson survived but has lingering medical problems that have changed his life, Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jon Tunheim said.
The case was reviewed several times before charges were filed. If it had gone to trial, a jury would have been asked to decide if Coots was guilty of assault by criminal negligence because he was drinking and carelessly handling the weapon.
“There needs to be some accountability for this event. It’s hard for me under these circumstances to have a young man shot in the head, have his life changed forever, and not have any accountability for that at all,” Tunheim said.
Wright didn’t pull out the gun until after Coots noticed pellets from an Airsoft gun on her floor. He asked if she owned an Airsoft pellet gun and she replied, “Would you like to see my baby?” She then pulled out the gun from under her bed.
Coots thought it was merely a pellet gun, said Jim Dixon, his attorney.
He pulled back the action, which ejected a round that Coots did not see. When the action slid back, Coots’ finger was on the trigger.
Dixon would have argued that the shooting was an accident, and not a crime.
“The stakes were just too high for Danial,” he said, referring to the potential prison sentence for Coots if the case had gone to trial.
Both Coots and Nelson work for Olympic Arms, Inc., a firearms company in Thurston County.
All three teens were traumatized by the accident, attorneys said.
Wright, the girl, was charged in juvenile court with third-degree assault, where she pleaded guilty under an agreement that the charge would be dropped in a year as long as she testified, attended alcohol and drug counseling, and performed 40 hours of community service, court documents say.
Her parents and older brother were asleep when the shooting happened.
His sentencing hearing is set for May 2.
(For Full Article Please Refer to Link)