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Judge tosses out case against owner of gun used in boy's death

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by gunsmith, Jan 28, 2004.

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  1. gunsmith

    gunsmith member

    May 8, 2003
    Reno, Nevada
    Judge tosses out case against owner of gun used in boy's death
    Rodney L. Patterson was almost never without his gun.

    Patterson passed a 2003 test and received a concealed gun permit. When he was out, his 9 mm firearm was with him on a holster. When he was in, his habit was to put it on his box spring.

    Most of the children who spent time at his apartment on Westside Boulevard Northwest knew better than to touch the always-loaded weapon. But Patterson never got a chance to explain the danger to 3-year-old Juwan Smith, whom he was watching for a friend.

    For less than 20 seconds on June 29, both the gun and the little boy were out of his sight. As Patterson ran bath water, he heard a shot. Smith was dead of a self-inflicted wound to the face, and authorities soon charged Patterson with felony child abuse.

    On Tuesday, a Roanoke judge dismissed the charge after the prosecution presented its case, saying the evidence did not show beyond a reasonable doubt that Patterson willfully left the gun behind, knowing the likely result. Patterson's reckless and negligent conduct was covered by another law, a misdemeanor that did not apply to this case, Circuit Judge William Broadhurst said.

    "I would not want to have the burden that is hanging on your shoulders hanging on mine," Broadhurst said to Patterson.

    Juwan's mother, Keisa Yates, and her supporters left the court angry. A relative said that Yates would not comment.

    Yates and Patterson had once been friends, and Yates testified that she had trusted her son in his care before that Saturday morning. She had gone out late with her sister to a couple of neighborhood hangouts - The Boom Boom Room and The Mansion - and Patterson offered to watch the boy, she said.

    "Rodney said he was OK - he got him," Yates testified.

    Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Melanie Menefee asked: "What did you take that to mean?"

    Her reply: "That he was in good hands, and nothing was going to happen," Yates said as she broke down in tears.

    After the ruling, Patterson said that he has lost 30 pounds since Juwan's death. He can't eat or sleep, he said.

    "I made a mistake," he said. "If I could take Juwan's place, I would do that. I want to let his mother know that I'm truly sorry for what happened to her son."

    Patterson told police in an interview that day that he had taken a class and passed a test to receive his concealed-carry permit. So he knew what to do - keep his gun unloaded and away from children.

    But he lived in a tough neighborhood, and thieves had broken into his apartment twice. So his habit was to pull his mattress to the side and place his firearm on the box spring - with one bullet in the chamber and nine in the clip.

    Juwan came over with his mother the night before and played with Patterson's 5-year-old daughter and a young niece. The children slept in Patterson's bedroom so they could watch television. Patterson slept in his daughter's room, keeping the gun with him.

    When they woke up that morning, Patterson put the gun on his box spring. He fed the children, then went to the bathroom as Juwan watched the other two play a game.

    "All the kids know but still I shouldn't even ... let the kids know not to touch it, he just didn't know," "I went to shower ... run to the bathroom and I smelt gun powder and I said Oh my God! " Patterson told a detective, according to a transcript in his court file.

    His attorney, David Damico, argued that what Patterson did was not willful, or done with a bad purpose, as the law requires for a conviction.

    "It was terribly stupid," Damico said. "And it was a terrible accident."

    After the hearing, Damico said that Patterson has given up his concealed handgun permit.

    "My client is done with firearms," Damico said.
  2. Stickjockey

    Stickjockey Member

    Apr 18, 2003
    Happy Valley, Oregon
    Understatement of the year. Words can't describe it.
  3. Mulliga

    Mulliga Member

    Jan 13, 2004
    Gainesville, Florida
    I don't know...this is one of those cases where I think the gun owner is to blame. Besides, if people are breaking into the apartment all the time, wouldn't it make more sense to keep the gun on you?
  4. Pendragon

    Pendragon Member

    Dec 25, 2002
    Austin, Texas
    Unfortunately, not everyone has the benefit of thousands of gun enthusiasts to bounce ideas and practices off of.

    It was incredibly poor judgement, but not malice.

    Why not just put it up high at least? I am not that comfy with that, but good Lord! on the BOX SPRING!?????

    Height will at least add a time component - the kid took only seconds to do this - he had probably seen the gun and was curious.

    My 2yr old son is going under GA tomorrow for some dental work and I am just a wreck about it - I can't imagine what the mother is going through, although I also blame her.

    We do not let anyone but blood watch our kids - and even then, only some blood. Letting some casual friend watch your kid while you go party does not earn you points in my book.

    Dumness all around and the innocent suffer for it.
  5. Jim March

    Jim March Member

    Dec 24, 2002
    SF Bay Area
    The small "bolt to the bedframe, quick access" safes holding one or two handguns have gotten dirt cheap of late. $200 gets you top-of-the-line, as little as $89 on sale gets you something decent.

    They won't stop a determined thief with a crowbar but they'll slow him down, and stop young children cold.
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