Trial opens in shooting death of officer’s daughter

EVERETT — A Marysville police officer repeatedly sobbed Thursday as a Snohomish County jury was told about how his daughter was fatally shot when his 3-year-old son grabbed a handgun left unsecured in the family’s van.

Derek Carlile, 31, put his head in his hands and at times began to weep during opening statements in his second-degree manslaughter trial.

The shooting of 7-year-old Jenna Carlile was a tragedy, but also a foreseeable consequence of the Camano Island man leaving his loaded .38-caliber revolver in the van’s cup holder, deputy prosecutor Lisa Paul said.

Evidence will show the off-duty officer made a series of unsafe choices March 10 in handling the weapon and as a result placed his children at risk, Paul told jurors.

Carlile accepts fault for his role in the shooting and “it’s something he wishes he could change, but he can’t,” Seattle defense attorney David Allen said.

Still, he urged jurors to keep an open mind and let the evidence guide their decision.

“This was a terrible, tragic accident but it wasn’t a crime,” Allen said.

Carlile has worked as a patrol officer in Marysville for about three years. Allen described him as a stickler for gun safety, and somebody who has made a habit of locking up his firearms in a 600-pound safe at his home when he isn’t carrying them for his job.

In keeping with his training, the officer had taken steps to “demystify” firearms for his children, teaching them how they work as part of a strategy aimed at encouraging safety, Allen said.

Testimony will show that Carlile provided his son with toy guns and on at least one occasion helped his 3-year-old shoot a BB gun, Paul said.

The boy was fascinated with his father’s firearms, and at times would try to get into the safe in an attempt to play with them, she said.

Carlile had his revolver inside an ankle holster and planned to strap it to his leg, but for some reason left the weapon in the van, unsecured, while he and his wife visited briefly with a friend, Jack Gunter, outside the man’s Stanwood art gallery, jurors were told.

Carlile’s son got out of his booster seat, grabbed the weapon and fired. Paul said. The boy “had no idea what he had done,” she said.

Jurors on Thursday saw photographs of the bloodstain left where Jenna Carlile was seated when she was shot in the abdomen.

When Carlile realized that his daughter was shot he immediately began trying to render first aid, Gunter testified.

“He said, ‘Hold on, hold on honey, hold on,’” Gunter recalled.

Jenna Carlile succumbed to her wounds, despite emergency surgery.

The trial before Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Thomas Wynne is expected to last into next week.

Scott North: 425-339-3431; north@heraldnet.com.

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