UPDATED: Danville police chief found not guilty in negligent storage of firearms case, issues statement
SALEM — Danville Police Chief Wade Parsons was found not guilty of negligently storing his service weapon, which was used by a 15-year-old boy to commit suicide.
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 March 11, 2013. Prosecutors said Jacob Carver, the son of Parsons’ girlfriend, used the weapon to shoot himself while he was alone in the house.
The decision favoring Parsons ends a year-long legal battle in 10th Circuit Court, where he was charged with a violation-level offense by the county attorney’s office.
Administrative Judge Edwin Kelly concluded on Wednesday that he had to dismiss the charge against the longtime chief after hearing arguments by the prosecution and defense.
Kelly said in a two-page order that both prosecutors and the defense agreed that Parsons, “did not know the child would use the handgun nor, under the circumstances known to him, did he think that the child would likely use the firearm.”
In a statement released Wednesday by the Danville Police Department, Parsons said, "I am pleased with the judge's decision but like so many, I remain saddened with the loss of Jacob. I truly hope now that the court case is over it no longer presents a distraction to the healing process of Jacob's family, friends and loved ones. I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude for the support I have received over the past 18 months, particularly from the residents of Danville."
Carver was told not to go into the bedroom, had never seen the firearms in the closet and did not know where it was stored when Parsons was off-duty, according to the order.
Kelly also noted that neither the boy’s mother nor Parsons knew that the boy was contemplating suicide
“These facts do not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant knew or should have known that the child was likely to gain access to the firearm,” Kelly said in his decision.
Kelly was the third judge to preside over the case. Two other judges had stepped aside, citing conflicts.
In April, Parsons lost a bid to have the case dismissed when another judge decided that prosecutors were legally justified in bringing a charge against Parsons, despite the boy’s intentions.
Defense lawyer Alan Cronheim had 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.
In March, Danville voters overwhelmingly re-elected Parsons as their town’s police chief. Parsons has held the job for 20 years, and maintained the support of selectmen in the wake of the charge being brought by the Rockingham County Attorney’s Office shortly after Carver’s death.