JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. -- A 13-year-old Jefferson County boy says he knows what he did was wrong, but says it was an accident and he never intended to hurt anyone when he shot his toy airsoft gun at a friend, who was hit in the eye.
His parents say their son deserves to be punished, but believe juvenile felony assault charges for an airsoft gun go too far.
But the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office says they take many factors into account, and when they decide to file charges it’s because they believe it’s in the best interest of the child.
The 13 year old, Jacob Alspaugh, tells Fox 31 News he and a friend were just messing around with a toy airsoft gun, shooting at each other and shooting at targets like cereal boxes without eye protection.
When the other boy said something that made Jacob mad, he did what he calls a “quick draw,” and fired the plastic bead. To his horror, he hit his friend in the eye.
“When it happened I felt sick and I kept saying I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry,” said the teen.
The other boy was treated and is fine with no permanent injuries. Police reports say his family did not want to press charges, and Jacob says he and his friend have made up.
“We just talked a while about me giving him an Xbox 360 and I gave him that one night just as a ‘sorry’ present," Alspaugh said. "He forgave me. He knows I’m sorry, so we’re back to being friends.”
But according to police reports, the treating doctor says the plastic bead could have caused serious bodily injury, and the Jefferson County DA’s office is charging the 13-year-old as a juvenile with felony second degree assault charges.
“The judge mentioned if convicted, he has a mandatory five days in detention and he can be removed from my home for up to a year,” said Jacob's father, Craig Alspaugh.
Jefferson County DA Scott Storey says they can’t comment on any specific juvenile case, but he says they take many things into account. They look at school records, and juvenile experts evaluate the child and bring up any psychological or mental health issues. They also consider what might be going on in the home and he says they do what they believe to be in the best interest of the child.
“We really want to give them the resources to make them successful, in the future, at school, at home, with their friends and everything else,” said Storey.
FOX31 News tested an identical airsoft toy gun and fired it at a piece of notebook paper. Sometimes the plastic beads went through the paper and sometimes they bounced off. Firearms expert and former police officer Rich Wyatt says, “It’s a toy, it’s an airsoft gun that can be purchased in any store. You don’t have to be any age to purchase it.” Wyatt says there was a time when parents, not prosecutors handled this kind of accident.
The father says at a court hearing earlier in the week the DA’s office offered his son a plea bargain, reducing the charge to misdemeanor assault. There would be no detention time, but Jacob would go into a diversion program that would provide counseling on a variety of issues. If he stayed out of trouble, his record would be expunged, and his records would remain sealed, as are all juvenile records.
Alspaugh says they are considering the plea bargain, but he worries any kind of plea would result in Jacob being expelled from school, kicked off the football team and further stigmatize him at school.