The attorney for the 9-year-old girl shot after a classmate brought a gun to her school is in the business of defending his client, but he may be feeling for deep pockets that just aren't there.
The loose-leaf paper and juvenile penmanship belied this stunner of an opening line:
“I am sorry I hurt you because I brought a gun to school.”
So began a letter to Amina Kocer-Bowman from the 9-year-old boy who brought a handgun to their Bremerton elementary school in February.
At the end of the day, the boy apparently dropped his backpack and the gun discharged. Amina, 9, was wounded by a .45-caliber bullet that did five surgeries’ worth of damage, and lodged near her spine.
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Amina was released from Harborview Medical Center last Tuesday. A copy of the boy’s apology to her — ordered by a judge — was given to The Seattle Times the next day. The girl’s attorney, Jeff Campiche, wasn’t exactly impressed.
“Although appreciated, the apology of the child simply cannot and does not satisfy the responsibility of the boy, his parents or Child Protective Services for Amina’s harms and losses,” Campiche said last week.
Campiche is in the business of defending his client, and ensuring that “beyond the apology” someone pays for the damage done to her physically, mentally and emotionally. I understand that need, but in this tragedy, he may be feeling for deep pockets that just aren’t there.
“He is intent on finding a villain,” the boy’s attorney, Eric John Makus, said of Campiche. “You’re not going to find a villain in my 9-year-old client.”
Prosecutors didn’t see him as a villain, either. Last month, they agreed to a plea deal that spares him juvenile detention in favor of probation and counseling.
Appropriately, they are turning their attention to the boy’s mother and her boyfriend, from whom he took the gun.
Seattle attorney Paul Luvera, who represented the families of two boys killed in a 1999 Olympic Pipe Line explosion in Bellingham, said cases involving children require a certain delicacy.
“If you represent a child, you have a heightened obligation to be careful about what you say with respect to that case because of the potential damage to the child,” he said.
Campiche also told reporters that he is looking for “entities” that may be held civilly liable.
Going after the boy’s mother and her boyfriend would be a fool’s errand. They have no money, and both are facing weapons charges.
So Campiche may go after the state’s Child Protective Services (you and me) for damages.
There’s no denying that the boy has had a troubled life. His parents relinquished custody of him to his grandmother, who cared for him and his siblings until she died in 2010. He’s now being raised by an uncle, who is his legal guardian.
It’s a sad upbringing, to be sure, but is the state at fault for all this?
Campiche is on a long-planned vacation and wasn’t available for comment. But his spokeswoman, India Simmons, said Campiche “does not see this as an accidental shooting.”
“Bringing that gun was an intentional act on the part of the kid,” Simmons said. “It wasn’t, ‘Oh, my gosh! Surprise!’ There’s no evidence that someone smuggled a gun into his backpack.”
That’s true, but the gun was there because two adults didn’t have a sharp eye between them. The gun was there because the boy said he was being bullied and was scared.
He made a terrible choice, but it’s what Amina’s lawyer does about it that scares me.
I pray for Amina and hope that she recovers to live a full and happy life.
But in representing that injured little girl, Campiche is grasping for something that may not be there.
Nicole Brodeur’s column appears Tuesday and Friday. Reach her at 206-464-2334 or email@example.com.
There was no need for the jumpsuit.