Jury finds Lake Stevens man guilty in son’s self-shooting

LAKE STEVENS — A Lake Stevens man faces up to a year in jail for leaving a loaded gun within reach of his 3-year-old son.

The boy climbed up on a bedroom dresser, retrieved his dad’s pistol from the holster and pulled the trigger. The bullet ripped through his upper lip, jaw and upper palate, causing significant damage that required surgery.

A jury was convinced that Jon Holzwarth, 48, should have taken steps to prevent the 2014 accidental shooting. Jurors convicted Holzwarth on Friday of reckless endangerment, a gross misdemeanor.

The man’s son, who turns 5 next month, testified during the week-long trial. His mother wrote last year that her son spent months in and out of a hospital and will require additional surgeries, including reconstruction of his jaw.

Holzwarth also took the stand. He told jurors that he’d never witnessed his son scale the dresser and believed the gun was secure there.

Snohomish County sheriff’s detectives turned up evidence that Holzwarth was warned more than once that his son was able to reach his gun on the dresser. The boy had seen Holzwarth put the gun there. He also had climbed up on the dresser in the past, Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Matthew Baldock wrote in charging documents.

Holzwarth’s mother in-law also told investigators that a couple of days before the shooting she dropped off several trigger locks and encouraged Holzwarth to secure his firearms.

He told the woman he wasn’t going to lock up his Ruger .380 because he needed the handgun for protection. Detectives found the locks still in their packaging when they searched the scene after the shooting.

Holzwarth and his wife separated for a time in 2013. She wrote in court papers that she was worried about her son’s safety because Holzwarth didn’t secure his guns.

“Jon says it is better to be judged by twelve than to be carried by six,” the woman wrote in the protection order.

Holzwarth told police that on Nov. 21, 2014, his son and a 4-year-old were playing alone in the master bedroom. He heard a loud noise and went to investigate. The children had locked themselves in the master bathroom. He kicked open the door and saw his son bleeding from the mouth.

The boy told his parents that his friend shot him. He later told his mom that he had climbed the dresser, picked up the gun and shot himself. Detectives found the gun buried under a pile of clothes in the bedroom.

A state Supreme Court decision limited what charges were available to Snohomish County prosecutors. The high court in 2014 dismissed a third-degree assault charge against a Bremerton man whose loaded gun was picked up by his girlfriend’s young son. That boy brought the gun to school and it discharged while in his backpack. The gunfire injured one of his classmates.

In that case, the court concluded that the man leaving a loaded gun out wasn’t the direct cause of the assault on his classmate.

Prosecutors plan to ask that Holzwarth not be allowed to have any contact with his son. He currently has supervised visits with the boy. Holzwarth is scheduled to be sentenced next month.

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; hefley@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @dianahefley.

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