A career criminal whose loaded flare gun was used by a woman to shoot herself in the head was sentenced Thursday to nine months in county jail.
Harley Davidson Roger, 35, denied during the investigation that the orange-and-black flare gun belonged to him and refused to identify the owner.
However, Roger acknowledged that the gun had been in his Kennewick home for a couple of weeks before the incident last summer and that he believed it was loaded.
A flare gun fires projectiles by an explosive.
The woman reportedly picked up the weapon, not understanding that it was loaded or could cause injury. She didn't seek immediate medical attention, but was rushed to the hospital the next day with a traumatic brain injury.
Roger pleaded guilty Thursday in Benton County Superior Court to second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm.
With seven felony convictions on his record, he faced one year and 10 months to two years and five months in prison.
Deputy Prosecutor Kristin McRoberts reduced the charge from first-degree as part of negotiations since Roger was in possession of a flare gun, and not a "more traditionally viewed" firearm like a pistol, revolver, rifle or shotgun.
McRoberts also agreed to the amendment because there was "no evidence to suggest he brandished the flare gun or in any other way attempted to use the flare gun as a weapon."
Judge Vic VanderSchoor granted Roger a jail term below the standard sentencing range.
Roger must report to Benton County jail by March 25 to do nine months on work crew.
According to court documents, the flare gun was at Roger's home at least between Aug. 30 and Sept. 6, if not longer. Roger isn't allowed to possess or own weapons like that because of his criminal history.
The woman was visiting during that time when she put the flare gun to her head and fired. No one in the home, including Roger, called for any medical assistance for the woman, documents said.
It was only the next morning when her daughter noticed the woman's speech was slurred and the left side of her face was slightly drooping that she was taken by ambulance to Trios Health in Kennewick, court documents said.
She was transferred to Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland, where part of her skull was removed as a result of the flare striking it from close range, documents said. She was put in an induced coma.
Kennewick police searched Roger's home on Sept. 6 and located the flare gun.
Officers saw a burn mark on the floor. Roger reportedly said it was caused by the flare after it struck the woman in the head, then bounced off a wall and onto the floor.
Roger admitted he was present wen she picked up the gun from a table and shot herself. He said he left the home after because he was angry for what she had done.
During the investigation, Roger gave a statement that conflicted with a relative's account of what happened in the home, court documents said. Then, while in custody, he was heard on a recorded jail call trying to coach that relative to take ownership of the flare gun, documents said.
Roger's history dates to 1995 with convictions for burglary, possessing stolen property, forgery, a violation of work release, assault, unlawful issuance of bank checks and possessing a controlled substance.
-- Kristin M. Kraemer: 582-1531; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @KristinMKraemer