A 12-year-old Harrison Valley boy pleaded guilty in the accidental fatal shooting of his twin brother.
The plea was entered in Potter County juvenile court on March 24. A disposition, or sentencing, is scheduled for May 12 in front of President Judge Stephen Minor, Potter County District Attorney Andy Watson told this newspaper.
The boy, whose name has not been released due to his age, was charged with involuntary manslaughter and unlawful possession of a firearm. State police in Coudersport investigated the Jan. 28 death of 12-year-old Wyatt Brimmer, who Watson confirmed as the accused’s brother. According to police reports, Brimmer died of a single gunshot wound to the chest.
“It’s a horrible tragedy all around,” said Watson. “Generally, any case involving a juvenile accused of a crime toward a family member is difficult. Prosecution is difficult to pursue, knowing the family and accused have suffered horribly already, however, we have a job to do when we took an oath to uphold the laws.”
Watson said the involuntary manslaughter charge is invoked “Whenever someone, as the direct result of doing a lawful or unlawful act in a grossly negligent or reckless manner, causes the death of another person.”
Those charge parameters are the same for juveniles and adults, said Watson, even if the act was unintentional.
“Based on the investigation, the criminal investigator and myself both concluded that this was an accidental shooting, which still imposes criminal liability on the responsible person,” he said, adding that he gives credit to Criminal Investigator Joel Miles with state police in Coudersport for his thorough investigation.
Watson said the ultimate question when it comes to family-on-family crime is how to strike a balance between vindicating the victim’s rights and protecting the accused’s due process.
While he couldn’t share details on the upcoming disposition, Watson said in general, there are several possible outcomes for such charges against a juvenile – mental health evaluations, placement in a residential treatment facility, probation until age 21, home detention, community service, paying restitution to a victim’s family and writing an apology letter, among other options.
“The whole goal now is to work with the juvenile to ensure we’re giving them the treatment they need, while fostering rehabilitative measures to guide the child to make sure they don’t become an adult criminal,” he said. “We’ll make sure this young man gets the help he needs and continue to pray for the family.”