FARMINGTON – Prosecutors in San Juan County have decided not to file criminal charges against the father of an 8-year-old girl who was shot in the neck by her younger sister after the father handed the younger girl a .22-caliber rifle.
San Juan County Chief Deputy District Attorney Dustin O’Brien said his decision came after reviewing details of the shooting and the law.
O’Brien told the Farmington Daily Times Friday that the father violated basic firearms safety rules when he gave the loaded rifle to the younger sister to move.
“There is no question that that is negligent,” O’Brien said. “The problem is that the standard for criminal negligence is higher.”
The 8-year-old child was doing housework at the family home in the community of Flora Vista just east of Farmington on Jan. 19 when she was shot.
The father handed the .22-caliber rifle to his 6-year-old daughter to take to another room, but she playfully pointed it at her older sister and pulled the trigger, county sheriff’s officials reported. The family drove her to an urgent care facility, where she was initially listed in critical condition.
The girl has since returned to school, her mother told the Daily Times.
Teresa Bean 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 misdemeanor.