Orange jumpsuit for nine-year-old who's accused of shooting girl

Court to rule whether boy who brought gun to school had mental capacity to understand crime

A day after a nine-year old boy appeared in the dock crying and dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit usually worn by adults, a judge in Washington state was last night deciding whether he will be arraigned on criminal charges over the accidental shooting of a fellow pupil in an school classroom.

Police officials in Bremerton, west of Seattle across Puget Sound, said the boy put his backpack on his desk as a class was ending on Wednesday and a gun inside accidentally discharged. The bullet pierced the abdomen of Amina Kocer-Bowman, eight, who was in a critical condition yesterday.

Looking dazed and in tears, the boy sat in the courtroom at an initial hearing on Thursday as his father, Jason Cochran, rubbed his back. Bail was set by the judge at $50,000 (£31,500). If bail is met, the boy will be released from a juvenile detention centre into the care of his legal guardian, an uncle.

Prosecutors said they intended to charge the boy with unlawful possession of a gun, bringing a dangerous weapon to school and third-degree assault. In Washington, a minor aged between eight and 12 can face criminal charges, but only if a court determines that they have the mental capacity to understand what they have done.

Judge Anna Laurie, who will rule in this case, attempted to gauge the boy's mental ability at the hearing. "Do you read at grade level?" she asked him. After looking for help to his father and his uncle, he replied: "I have a little trouble reading."

Natalie Poss, his teacher, said she heard a loud bang and then saw the girl slumping at her desk. It was, she said, "every teacher's worst nightmare". Insisting the boy had "a lot of good in his heart", she said she was surprised he would bring a gun to school. "I know he didn't intend this to happen. And I know he's hurting tonight," she said.

The boy's family background was apparently fraught. Both his parents, police said, had extensive criminal records. He had been in the care of a grandmother until her death a year ago, and had since been under the guardianship of his uncle. Investigators said the boy took the gun from his mother's home during a parental visit. He had earlier boasted to a classmate that he would bring "his Dad's gun" to school and intended then to run away.

"I just want him back home," Patrick Cochran, the uncle, said after the hearing. "He's a good kid. It's all I can say. I apologise to the family of that girl. I really do." Jason Cochran similarly defended his son, saying: "I just want everyone to know that my kid made a mistake. It was a terrible mistake."

Washington ranks near the bottom of states on regulating access to guns. Nor is it among the 27 states that have laws pertaining to guns and minors, including some that would foresee criminal penalties for adults who allow firearms to get into the hands of children. Most legal experts say it is very rare for someone so young to be charged with a crime. Gail Hammer, a professor of law at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, said that even if the boy were to be convicted, he would not go to an adult prison. "Generally with young children they try to deal with it in the juvenile system," she said.

In 2000, six-year-old Kayla Rolland was fatally injured by a six-year-old classmate in Michigan who brought a gun from home – but the boy was not criminally charged. In that case, prosecutors said the boy was too young to be held responsible.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Experienced Bookkeeper - German Speaking - Part Time

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm of accountants based ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a financial services c...

Ashdown Group: Field Service Engineer

£30000 - £32000 per annum + car allowance and on call: Ashdown Group: A succes...

Recruitment Genius: Sales & Marketing Co-Ordinator

£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Well established small company ...

Day In a Page

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk
Nepal earthquake: One man's desperate escape from Everest base camp after the disaster

Escape from Everest base camp

Nick Talbot was sitting in his tent when the tsunami of snow and rock hit. He was lucky to live, unlike his climbing partner just feet away...
Adopting high fibre diet could dramatically cut risk of bowel cancer, says study

What happened when 20 Americans swapped diets with 20 Africans?

Innovative study in the US produces remarkable results
Blake Lively and 'The Age of Adaline': Gossip Girl comes
of age

Gossip girl comes of age

Blake Lively is best known for playing an affluent teenager. Her role as a woman who is trapped forever at 29 is a greater challenge
Goat cuisine: Kid meat is coming to Ocado

Goat cuisine

It's loved by chefs, ethical, low in fat and delicious. So, will kid meat give lamb a run for its money?
14 best coat hooks

Hang on: 14 best coat hooks

Set the tone for the rest of your house with a stylish and functional coat rack in the hallway
Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?