Prisons worker charged with unsafe gun storage after suicide

(Photo credit should read RICHARD BOUHET/AFP via Getty Images)

Prosecutors said a state prisons' employee did not properly secure the gun her 12-year-old son used to die by suicide, leading to a first-of-its-kind criminal charge in Snohomish County.

Late last year, Branden McKinnon’s father sued the boy’s mother, Jennifer Wright, over his death last May. The lawsuit was settled for an undisclosed amount in April.

His stepfather and Wright had been putting pressure on him to get his grades up, they told investigators. He had been feeling down because of it, the Everett Herald reported.

When Wright got home from work at the Monroe Correctional Complex, she reportedly checked on her son. She thought he was sleeping. But when she checked again around 7:30 p.m., she found he had shot himself, according to the charges filed Wednesday in Snohomish County Superior Court.

Her 9 mm pistol was on the bed. At 7:50 p.m., Branden McKinnon was declared dead, according to court documents.

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Wright had taken her pistol out a previous night as she prepared to go to a search-and-rescue academy, she told a detective. She said she put it back in the kitchen drawer, unloaded. She put ammunition in a different drawer.

Prosecutors charged Wright with first-degree unsafe storage of a firearm, a felony.

Snohomish County Prosecutor Adam Cornell said this is the first time his office has prosecuted someone under a new state law implemented in 2019. It was part of a suite of reforms enacted after Washington voters passed Initiative 1639 in 2018.

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The statute holds that a person is guilty if unsafe storage of their gun means another person gains access to it and "causes personal injury or death with the firearm."