Settlement reached in gun-storage suit over Marysville boy’s death

The lawsuit alleged the 12-year-old got his mother’s loaded gun from a kitchen drawer and shot himself.

Branden McKinnon (Family photo)

Branden McKinnon (Family photo)

MARYSVILLE — A settlement has been reached in a father’s wrongful death lawsuit against his son’s mother, in a dispute over the death of their child.

At their Marysville home last May, Branden McKinnon got his hands on a gun his mother didn’t properly store, according to a lawsuit filed in December by the boy’s his father, Jonathan McKinnon, in Snohomish County Superior Court. Branden shot himself. He was 12.

The lawsuit was settled for an undisclosed amount late last month, the father’s lawyer Casey Arbenz told The Daily Herald.

Jonathan McKinnon said in an interview in January that Branden’s mother eventually told him she was cleaning her personal gun, but had to get to work. The mother, Jennifer Wright, has worked in state prisons since 2017, according to an agency spokesperson. McKinnon and Wright met while they served in the U.S. Army.

According to Jonathan McKinnon, she said she put the gun in a kitchen drawer and left. The wrongful death lawsuit against Wright and her husband alleged the Glock was always kept loaded in that kitchen drawer.

“This has been obviously the worst thing that could ever happen to a father,” Arbenz said Thursday. “He’s been through hell losing his son. … To lose him in such a reckless and careless way is truly devastating.”

Wright’s lawyer, Ryan Hall, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The case was forwarded to the Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office for review. Wright could be charged under the state’s unsafe gun storage law enacted in 2019. The statute holds that a person is guilty of “community endangerment” if unsafe storage of their gun means another person gains access to it and “causes personal injury or death with the firearm.”

Snohomish County Prosecutor Adam Cornell said Thursday his office is still reviewing the case for potential criminal charges.

It wouldn’t be the first time a Snohomish County resident was charged for not properly storing firearms.

In 2016, an Everett man was sentenced to two months in jail for leaving a loaded Ruger .380-caliber firearm near his 3-year-old son, who shot himself.

And in 2012, a Marysville police officer allegedly left his gun in the family van’s cup holder. His 3-year-old son retrieved it and shot and killed his sister, 7. Prosecutors charged the officer with manslaughter, but a jury couldn’t reach a verdict. Prosecutors declined to retry the case.

Jonathan McKinnon remembered his son as someone who loved reading and superheroes. He played soccer and ran cross country. He’d come home and show off his report cards.

“I know I’ll be biased by saying that he was the perfect kid,” Branden’s father told The Herald in January.

Arbenz said Thursday: “No amount of money will put him at peace.”

Jake Goldstein-Street: 425-339-3439; jake.goldstein-street@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @GoldsteinStreet.

Help is available

There are free and confidential resources for people in crisis or who know someone in crisis.

If there is an immediate danger, call 911.

Care Crisis Chat: imhurting.org (chat); 800-584-3578 (call).

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255, suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

The Trevor Project Lifeline for LGBTQ Youth: thetrevorproject.org, 866-488-7386.

Mental Health First Aid courses: mentalhealthfirstaid.org.

Compass Health’s Mobile Crisis Outreach Team may be contacted at anytime by calling the Volunteers of America crisis line: 1-800-584-3578.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: afsp.donordrive.com.

The Snohomish Health District has a list of other local resources. snohd.org/200/Suicide-Prevention.

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