A 14-year-old boy who shot a friend in the side while playing with a gun last June pleaded guilty Wednesday to recklessly discharging a firearm toward a person.
The lone bullet shattered 16-year-old Jesse Ring's rib before lodging in his lower back. The doctor who later removed the slug told police that if the bullet had penetrated that rib, Ring would have died.On Wednesday, 3rd District Juvenile Court Judge Andrew A. Valdez told the youth he was fortunate Ring had not been killed or permanently disabled.
"You're very lucky not to be sitting here in front of me on murder charges," he said.
On June 28, the boy was watching TV with other teens at a friend's North Redwood house when he pulled a .38-caliber revolver from his pants and said, "Let's play a game." He then opened the cylinder and put a bullet into the gun, according to Salt Lake police reports.
The 14-year-old closed the cylinder, spun it, and pointed the gun at Ring, who was sitting in a chair with his hand behind his head. Ring told his friend to quit playing around, but the boy pulled the trigger - striking Ring near the right armpit.
The boy, who was originally charged with aggravated assault, apologized Wednesday - saying the gun had gone off accidentally.
"I'm sorry. I wish I'd never got in trouble," he said. "I don't know why they said I did it on purpose."
Salt Lake County deputy attorney Elizabeth Lindsley scoffed at claims that the shooting was unintentional, saying " discharged the firearm at Jesse Ring knowing such person would be endangered."
Lindsley said the boy tried to hide the gun underneath a living room chair moments after the shooting.
Valdez ordered the boy to complete a 60-day program at the recently opened Genesis Youth Center for counseling and community service assignments. The judge said he was hesitant to sentence the teen to Decker Lake Youth Facility out of fear he would become further entrenched in alleged gang activities. Final disposition on the case is slated for October.
"It's time you shed some bad habits and pick up some good habits," said Valdez. "You have an opportunity to prove to your mother and to the court that you have the capability to turn around. You came close to killing someone, but now you have a second chance."