COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — A 28-year-old man pleaded guilty to gun-related crimes last Tuesday after his child found his loaded firearm and discharged it — the scene of which was caught on camera.
Matthew Rivas, of Columbus, was convicted in Franklin County Municipal Court on April 4 after his young child located a gun in a couch cushion and fired it inside a residence, nearly striking himself in the face with a bullet — causing burns and short-term hearing loss, City Attorney Zach Klein’s Office said in a news release.
“As a father, the images of a small child reaching into a couch cushion, finding a loaded firearm and discharging the weapon nearly pointed at his face are almost too chilling to watch,” Klein said in a statement. “There’s nothing wrong with responsible gun ownership, but leaving an unsecured gun around (the) house for kids to find is not responsible.”
NBC4 has an edited version of the security camera recording of the shooting below. Viewer discretion is advised.
Rivas pleaded guilty to one count of child endangerment and two counts of negligent firearm storage, both misdemeanor offenses. Judge Jarod Skinner sentenced Rivas to 10 days in jail and two years of probation, issued a $150 fine and ordered his gun be confiscated and destroyed, Klein’s office said. During his probation period, Rivas is barred from owning or using a gun.
Lashawndra Allen, the mother of the two children present during the shooting, called it a “critical moment” for her family and said she is grateful it didn’t result in a funeral. It’s a sign, Allen said, of the importance of gun safety and using a safe or lock to store a firearm.
“We cannot control everything that happens to our children but we can lower their chances of being hurt at our hands by practicing gun safety,” Allen said in a statement. “Talking to our children about guns is not enough, especially with young children.”
Community members can get safe storage lock boxes for free through Columbus Public Health. NBC4 watched the video with Eric Delbert, Owner of LEPD Firearms Range and Training Facility.
“So many things are wrong in that video, so many things, from being a responsible gun owner, right off the bat, there’s so many things we pick up on as responsible gun owners that went wrong there and we’re just fortunate it didn’t end in tragedy,” he said.
He said the three big concerns he has after watching it are that the gun was unsecured in a room with children, the owner did not immediately know exactly where it was, and the owner’s handling of the weapon once he found it.
“There’s really no excuse not to have it secured and it is very frustrating to see stories like this where people have ignored common sense for gun ownership,” Delbert said.
The case is the first involving the city’s new safe storage law, according to Klein.
“Before we would have been left with essentially a child endangering charge and the defendant could have taken it to a jury and say hey this may look bad, but it doesn’t rise to the level of recklessness,” the city attorney said. “That’s up to a jury to decide, now that we have the law on the books, his actions specifically fit a law.”