The trial surrounding the death of a teen accidently killed by a flare pen ended on Thursday with a six-month conditional sentence for the flare pen owner.
James Alexander Rose, 42, pleaded guilty in Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench to storing a firearm without reasonable caution to the safety of others. A count of criminal negligence causing death was stayed.
Tanner Mayer, 15, died after he was hit in the chest with a .22 calibre bullet on Sept. 7, 2009.
The bullet passed through Mayer’s heart and aorta, lodging in his right lung, causing massive internal bleeding.
Rose’s son Connor, who was 16 at the time, found the pen, also known as a bear banger, when it rolled from beneath the seat of his father’s truck.
He didn’t know what it was and was fiddling with it when it went off while the two teens were sitting in the truck, waiting outside a friend’s house.
In her victim impact statement, Tanner’s mother Trisha Mayer said she remains terrified that something bad will happen to her family again.
“I couldn’t protect Tanner from this. I was blind-sided,” she said in the letter that was read aloud by Crown prosecutor Jason Snider on her behalf.
“There is just a constant pit in my stomach and sadness in my heart. You don’t recover from this.”
She said she will never forget being at the hospital when Tanner died.
“We had to go without our son and tell his six-year-old sister he’d never be coming home, ever.”
Bill Mayer called Tanner his “first-born and his best friend.”
“I look for him in every teenager I see on the street,” said Tanner’s father who struggled to maintain his composure while reading his letter as family members sobbed in court.
He said his son was smart, funny, patient and warm, and his family always knew where he was when he was out with friends by texting back and forth.
And anger remains about his son’s senseless death.
“Tanner died not deserving this. My family did not deserve this.”
The trial was set to continue Thursday when defence lawyer Glen Allen asked for a dismissal of charges based on the wording of the charge, which called the flare pen a prohibited device.
After the Crown requested the pen be called a prohibited firearm instead, a discussion between the lawyers and families outside the courtroom led to the joint submission of the six-month sentence to be served in the community.
Rose admitted it was his flare pen and it did have a .22 calibre bullet inside, and it was stored in his truck.
The defence said Rose had the flare pen for a long time. When he tried to use it with a .22 calibre bullet, it didn’t work.
A charge of manufacturing a prohibited device was dropped by the Crown on Tuesday because proof was lacking that it was James Rose who altered the device to fire a bullet instead of a flare.
Crown prosecutor Jason Snider said he could not find any cases where a person made a firearm that didn’t look like a firearm, and left it for someone else to use.
“The vast majority of criminal negligence cases involving firearms and deaths are usually kids playing with their dad’s gun or hunters shooting other hunters. It’s very rare for someone to pick up a device that’s a firearm and not realize it’s a firearm,” Snider said.
He called the sentence a just outcome.
“This obviously is an extremely tragic incident, particularly as it relates to the family of Mr. Mayer, but (also) the whole Rocky Mountain House community.”
Snider said the court case doesn’t place restrictions on the use of flare pens but the family has done some work to that end.
“(Restrictions are) up to regulatory authorities. It’s not up to the courts.”