FORT EDWARD -- The father of the 13-year-old boy shot and killed in his Fort Edward home said Tuesday he believes the other boy who was allegedly involved in the shooting should be charged with murder.
“I understand accidents happen in life. But there’s no possible way this was an accident,” Louis Cota said.
He said he believes the evidence shows the 13-year-old who was handling the gun intentionally pointed it at the face of his son, Gary Cota, even though his son was believed to have pushed the gun away seconds earlier and lectured him about pointing it at another person.
“After that point, there is no excuse for it,” he said.
The gun had a safety as well as firing mechanisms with its hammer that required three steps to be taken to prepare it to fire, Louis Cota said.
Louis Cota said his son was not handling the gun when it went off because the investigation has found he was sending a text message to a girl as he was shot. The gun was loaded with bird shot, and based on the pattern from the shot it was clear the gun was close to his son’s face, likely within a foot or so, Louis Cota said.
He said he and his wife had forbade their son from hanging out with the boy, but relented when told he was trying to straighten himself out.
Police have said they believed the shooting was accidental, but the investigation was not complete.
Washington County District Attorney Kevin Kortright said Tuesday he has not ruled out prosecuting the 13-year-old Fort Edward boy as an adult. He said he was waiting for results of forensic tests that could show who was handling the gun, and will help police determine what happened.
The boy’s lawyer, though, said Monday it was “ridiculous” to consider charging the teen as an adult instead of as a juvenile. The crime would not be on the child’s record if charged as a juvenile, and sentencing options for juveniles are not as severe as those for adults.
“If he’s going to be charged, it should be handled through Family Court,” lawyer Michael Keenan said.
Keenan’s comments were the first on behalf of the boy who survived the June 5 shooting that killed Cota in his Keating Avenue home.
Exactly what happened when a 12-gauge shotgun owned by Cota discharged in the home, killing the boy instantly, was still under investigation as of Tuesday.
His parents allowed him to have the gun, but did not believe there was any ammunition in the house for it. Fort Edward Police and State Police have been investigating where the single round that was in the gun came from.
The 13-year-old friend was in Cota’s bedroom with him, and his role in the shooting is still being determined.
Kortright said he has met with Fort Edward Police and the Washington County Attorney’s Office to discuss the case, and said whether charges will be filed, and where they will be filed, were still to be determined.
Scientific tests, including DNA tests, that are being done by State Police on the gun and shotgun shell will play an important part in the investigation, Kortright said.
“I’m interested to hear what the testing shows,” he said. “We’ll look at it all once the investigation is done.”
Fort Edward Police Sgt. Justin Derway said there was no timetable for completion of the tests.
Under state law, juveniles can only be prosecuted as adults for the most serious felonies, including murder, robbery and rape.
If convicted of one of these crimes as a juvenile, defendants are held in a juvenile detention center until they become adults, when they are transferred to prison to serve the remainder of their sentences.
Keenan said the boy was “deeply traumatized” by the shooting and did not intend to hurt his friend.
Police interviewed the 13-year-old the night of the shooting, but their efforts to talk to him again have been rebuffed.
Keenan said he will not allow his client to be questioned by police a second time. A followup interview by police would just be an effort to get him to deviate from his first statement, he said.
“He’s already made a statement,” he said. “It (a second interview) is not to reiterate facts. It’s to get someone to say something else.”