The uncle of the boy responsible for the Bremerton school shooting says the criticism hurts, "But I can take it."
BREMERTON — Patrick Cochran said he was simply trying to do right by his family and fulfill his dying mother’s request when he took in his brother’s three children.
But over the past two weeks, after a handgun his 9-year-old nephew took to his Bremerton elementary school discharged and seriously injured a classmate, he’s been subjected to scrutiny he never could have imagined.
Police detectives, child-welfare workers and probation officers have been to his home and combed through his family’s background and belongings, he says.
An attorney hired by the wounded girl’s family has condemned what he called the boy’s “history of terrible parenting” and threatened legal action.
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Strangers criticize, saying the boy and his siblings are doomed, that Cochran is a worthless and unfit guardian with a “volatile, unstable” home.
“It hurts me, but I can take it,” the 41-year-old unemployed bachelor said during an interview Wednesday. “I’m worried about the kids and how this will affect the rest of their lives.”
Cochran’s nephew pleaded guilty Tuesday to three criminal charges resulting from the accidental shooting Feb. 22 at Armin Jahr Elementary School. The boy was sentenced to one year of probation and ordered to undergo counseling in a plea deal with Kitsap County prosecutors.
The Times is not naming the boy because he was prosecuted as a juvenile.
The wounded girl, Amina Kocer-Bowman, 8, remains in Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center in serious condition. Police said she was hit by a single gunshot from a .45-caliber handgun that fired from inside the boy’s backpack.
Her father says she faces a long recovery even after five surgeries.
Hospital spokeswoman Susan Gregg said Amina was taken off a respirator Wednesday and is breathing on her own. Unless there’s a setback, the next step would be for her to move out of the intensive care unit.
“We’re heartbroken for her,” Cochran said of Amina. “We can’t sleep at night. I would do anything to go back and change what happened.”
Cochran’s nephew said Wednesday that he took the handgun to school for protection from some “bigger” kids who had threatened to beat him up.
Eric John Makus, the boy’s attorney, disputed one police account that the boy had taken the handgun for protection because he planned to run away from home.
The 9-year-old said that about a week before he brought the gun to school, he and a friend were “jumped” by some other boys. All the participants were suspended, according to Makus.
The boy said his teacher and the principal did not believe his version of what happened. “They said I was crying wolf,” he said.
After the suspension, the boys who had jumped him threatened him again, he said.
Patty Glaser, a spokeswoman for the Bremerton School District, says state law bars her from discussing the student or the investigation.
Cochran said he’s not trying to make excuses for what his nephew did. It was plain wrong, he said, to bring that gun to school, and the boy knew it.
Police believe the boy obtained the handgun during a visit to the home of his mother, Jamie Lee Passmore, and her boyfriend, Douglas L. Bauer, just days before the shooting. Both are wanted on arrest warrants, issued Monday, for allegedly allowing access to the handgun.
Passmore, who has felony convictions related to drug use, also is charged with unlawful possession of a firearm.
In hindsight, Cochran said allowing the visit was a bad call. But, he said, the children love their parents despite their past chemical addictions and criminal records. He said Passmore has been clean and sober for several years.
She was working and living with a man who had a good job and seemed like “a good guy,” Cochran said.
“She was doing better than she ever had,” he said. “I thought it was good for the kids to see her, but I never in a million years thought there were guns there, and I never would have let them go if I’d known.”
Passmore and her then-husband, Jason Cochran — Patrick’s younger brother — were both addicted to drugs when state Child Protective Services became involved in the family’s affairs, said Patrick Cochran.
His mother, Linda Cochran, was “scared” for the kids, so she retired from her job with the Social Security Administration in San Diego and moved to Bremerton in 2006.
She adopted them when Passmore and Jason Cochran relinquished custody of the boy and his two older sisters, now 10 and 13.
Patrick Cochran said he quit his job and moved with his mother because “she was 63, and three kids is a lot,” he said.
“She was one of the greatest people you could ever meet,” he said.
In 2010, Linda Cochran was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She died less than three months later.
She left her estate and life insurance to her older son, making him promise that he would take good care of the nephew and nieces to whom he is legal guardian. He says he doesn’t work so he can be home with his children.
He thought he was doing a pretty good job, he said.
None of the children seems traumatized by their parents’ troubles, he said. “I’ve never heard them say a bad word about either of them,” he said.
His brother, who is now clean and sober and working full time at Kentucky Fried Chicken in East Bremerton, lives with him and the children because “he loves his kids, and they love him.”
All of the kids like to read, and they don’t fight much among each other. The older girl makes straight A’s and hopes to earn a scholarship to attend the University of Washington, Cochran said.
According to CPS spokeswoman Sherry Hill, the agency closed its case involving the siblings after Linda Cochran adopted them.
She said the only way the child-welfare agency would have become involved again was if there had been new allegations of abuse or neglect, but there weren’t.
Hill could not comment on the current investigation into the child’s home, but Cochran said there have been several home visits, including drug tests for the children’s father, which he has passed.
“I don’t think we’re bad people,” Patrick Cochran said.
Christine Clarridge: 206-464-8983 or firstname.lastname@example.orgSeattle Times news researcher David Turim contributed to this report, which includes information from The Associated Press.