FORT EDWARD — A 14-year-old has been charged in the death of former Chazy resident Gary E. Cota, who was 13 when he was shot in the head in his bedroom.
The older teen faces charges of second-degree manslaughter, second-degree assault and second-degree reckless endangerment, said Ford Edward Village Police Chief Justin Derway.
The manslaughter and assault charges are felonies, and the endangerment charge is a misdemeanor.
The case has been referred to the Washington County Probation Department, and the boy, whose name was not released, will be tried as a juvenile, Derway said.
He was arrested at about 2 p.m. Thursday and released to a parent to return to the Probation Department on Monday, he said.
BOYS HANDLING GUN
”At this point, we don’t have any evidence indicating it was an intentional act,” Derway said.
”The initial statement that the live child made the night of the incident indicated the boys had been handling the gun prior to the shooting. We never determined where the rounds in the gun came from.”
The 12-gauge shotgun was not secured in the Cotas’ house, the chief added.
According to New York State Penal Law, first-degree manslaughter reflects an intention to injure someone that results in death, while a person is guilty of second-degree manslaughter if, in one instance, “he recklessly causes the death of another person.”
“It’s about time,” Cota’s great-grandfather, Rodney Parrott of Plattsburgh, said about the charges.
He said he thinks the boy should be tried as an adult.
“I was hoping that this thing was just accidental ... but it doesn’t appear that way,” said Gary’s paternal grandfather, Gary Edward Cota, for whom he was named.
Gary was shot upstairs in his family’s Fort Edward home on June 5, 2012, while his parents, Nicole and Louis Cota, and his siblings were in the house.
His paternal grandmother, Candy Cota, said the teen who turned the shotgun at her grandson was his friend.
The family had moved to Fort Edward from Chazy soon after Gary completed seventh grade at Chazy Central Rural School in June 2010.
His mother moved back to the Plattsburgh area around July or August of 2012, Parrott said.
‘BROKE FAMILY UP’
Mr. Cota said that although the charges bring a measure of solace to the family, some wounds never heal.
“It gives me consolation that charges have been filed but does it make me feel better? No. My grandson is still dead,” the West Chazy man said.
“Not only was one life was ruined, but you’ve got a lot of people that are affected.
“It broke the family up.”
While it took more than a year for the charges to be filed, Mr. Cota said, that’s often a reality of the justice system.
“Everybody watches TV, and they watch ‘CSI,’ and things are done quickly. It’s not that way in the real world,” he said. “I’d rather have them take their time and do it right.
“I still don’t know what his reason was behind (the shooting),” Mr. Cota said.
‘TEACH GUN SAFETY’
Candy said that since Gary’s death, her family has been contacted frequently by proponents of gun control.
But she doesn’t believe stricter gun laws are needed.
“It’s the person behind the gun, not the gun itself.”
Her husband thinks education and common sense are key to preventing needless injuries and deaths.
In his home, guns are locked away, with the keys stored in a separate location, Mr. Cota said.
“Kids are naturally curious,” he said. “Just because you teach your children gun safety and they understand it, it doesn’t mean the next-door-neighbor’s kid understands it.”
While children are taught about the dangers of drugs in school, they usually aren’t given a lesson in gun safety, he said.
So, most times, that’s up to parents, Mr. Cota said.
“I hope people take the time to teach their kids gun safety,” he said.
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