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Judge upholds firearms charge against Danville police chief
SALEM – A judge refused to dismiss a charge against Danville Police Chief Wade Parsons that accuses him of negligently storing a handgun used by a 15-year-old boy to commit suicide last year.
The decision allows prosecutors to move forward with its case against Parsons for the violation-level offense.
Judge Michael Sullivan said in a three-page order that prosecutors were legally justified in bringing a charge against Parsons despite the boy’s intentions when he turned the gun on himself.
Prosecutors said 15-year-old Jacob Carver used the department-issued gun to shoot himself on March 11, 2013, while he was alone in the chief’s house. He was the son of Parsons’ girlfriend.
Parsons’ loaded Glock-22 .40-caliber handgun was in his duty belt and left sitting on a duffel bag, covered with clothing inside a closet at his home on the night of the suicide, according to court records.
Defense lawyer Alan Cronheim argued that prosecutors had misapplied the law, saying the legislature did not intend for it to be used in situations where a firearm was discharged intentionally.
Cronheim maintained that the law was designed to hold gun owners liable for accidentally discharging their firearms.
Sullivan disagreed, saying he concluded that the intentional use of a firearm in the course of suicide could be construed as a “negligent or reckless” act under the law.
The judge said he reached his decision after considering written legal briefs and arguments made in 10th Circuit Court, Salem District Division, on Feb. 23.
Prosecutors argued that when the legislature created a law to hold people liable for the negligent storage of firearms, the intentional use of guns by children in suicides and mass shootings was a “clear concern.”
Last month, Danville voters overwhelmingly reelected Parsons as their town’s police chief. Parsons has held the job for 20 years and maintained the support of selectmen despite the charge brought by the Rockingham County Attorney’s Office.
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