Danville chief facing charge in shooting
DANVILLE - Police Chief Wade Parsons is to be charged today after a teen shot himself with the chief's service weapon when it was left sitting unsecured on top of a safe at Parsons' home, Rockingham County Attorney James Reams said Thursday.
Parsons will face one count of negligent storage of a firearm - a violation that carries up to a $1,000 fine.
The charge follows a State Police probe into the March 11 shooting death of Jacob Carver.
Through the investigation, Reams said it was determined that Parsons set the gun down on a safe in a closet.
"The chief left to go run errands and didn't secure his weapon," said Reams, whose office will prosecute the case.
While Parsons was away, his girlfriend's 15-year-old son, who was living at the home, went into the closet and grabbed the gun, according to Reams.
Reams said the boy died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound while he was alone. Authorities responded to the home at 53 Caramel Drive around 7:15 that night after receiving a 911 call.
"The statute holds you responsible for how you store weapons. It should have gone in a gun safe," Reams said. "We just looked at the statute and the conduct. There's no other option but to charge him. The statute reflects society's concern that if you have a weapon and children, you have to take steps to make sure they don't have access."
The statute states: "Any person who stores or leaves on premises under that person's control a loaded firearm, and who knows or reasonably should know that a child (under the age of 16) is likely to gain access to the firearm without the permission of the child's parent or guardian, is guilty of a violation if a child gains access to a firearm and the firearm is used in a reckless or threatening manner; the firearm is used during the commission of any misdemeanor or felony; or the firearm is negligently or recklessly discharged."
Reams said he wasn't sure if the gun is owned by Parsons or the town.
Reams said he hopes the case serves as a reminder to other gun owners about the importance of being careful when it comes to storing firearms when children are around.
"Nobody is probably more highly trained than a police officer," Reams said.
Parsons, the town's chief since 1995, has remained on the job through the State Police investigation.
Danville Selectman Shawn O'Neil, board chairman, said Parsons informed him about the charge.
"He told me what transpired and that he was going to be charged with this. It's a sad situation," O'Neil said.
O'Neil said the board plans to take no action against Parsons in light of the charge.
"It's an elected position. The board can't do anything, but on a personal note, I will vote for Wade in the next election," O'Neil said.
O'Neil questioned whether such a charge would have been brought if Parsons were not a police chief. He said he feels the county attorney's office faced public pressure.
"I know Wade is personally hurting and this is going to live with him for the rest of his life. This is just one more sad component added on top of this. This is not going to bring Jacob back," O'Neil said.
O'Neil said he still has confidence in Parsons.
"Deep down he's a really good man. I have the utmost respect for this man. We all err as part of human life. Charging him with this is not going to make anything change," he said.
O'Neil added that anyone looking to harm themselves will find a way.
"If this kid was 16 years old this would not be an issue," O'Neil said.