- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Montgomery County police yesterday charged a Germantown man and his 8-year-old son after the boy took his father’s handgun and shot a 7-year-old girl in the arm while playing with it at a child care center before school.

John Linwood Hall, 56, was charged with leaving a firearm in a location accessible to a minor, contributing to the delinquency of a minor and possession of a firearm by a felon. He was held last night in the Seven Locks Detention Center.

Police also said they “initiated charges” against Mr. Hall’s son, whose name was not released because he is a juvenile. They referred calls for comment to the county’s Department of Juvenile Services.

Montgomery County State’s Attorney Douglas F. Gansler confirmed that the boy was charged in the case, but he would not identify the charges. Mr. Gansler said that authorities considered the seriousness of the incident and the age of the boy in deciding to file charges.

“In the final analysis, given the history of this boy, both at school and at home, the decision was made to charge him and get him into the system and get him the help he needs,” Mr. Gansler said.

Officer Derek Baliles, a county police spokesman, said the shooting occurred just before 7 a.m. at the For Kids We Care child care center at 12648 Grey Eagle Court in Germantown.

Police said the boy took a .38-caliber Taurus revolver from an unlocked container in his father’s closet and put it into his school backpack.

Officer Baliles said the gun fired “accidentally” at the day care center when the boy played with it inside the backpack. The girl was struck in the arm, authorities said.

The girl, whose name was not released, was flown to Children’s Hospital and was in stable condition last night. She is a second-grader at S. Christa McAuliffe Elementary School in Germantown.

The girl’s father, who was not identified, said in a statement issued through the hospital and obtained by the Associated Press: “Everyone has a responsibility to ensure that guns are kept unloaded, locked and out of children’s reach to prevent incidents like this.”

The AP reported that Mr. Hall has an arrest record that goes back nearly 40 years. The record includes six arrests in Baltimore between 1968 and 1970. There are also eight arrests in Montgomery and Frederick counties from 1971 to 1989. The charges include contributing to the delinquency of a minor, assault with intent to murder and intimidating a witness. The outcome of those cases isn’t clear, according to the AP.

Police said Mr. Hall had the .38 caliber Taurus for several years and that he and his son live in the Northlake apartment complex where For Kids We Care center is located.

The center, which caters to infants and toddlers and offers before- and after-school programs, is located in a specially outfitted ground-floor apartment that’s connected to a fenced-in outdoor playground.

When police arrived, Mr. Hall’s son, the wounded girl and four other children were calm, police said. “The child care providers did a marvelous job,” said Lucille Baur, a county police spokeswoman.

Providers voluntarily closed the center where the incident occurred and another one they operate about two miles away.

“It scared me,” said Rashida Means, 25, who lives in the apartment complex.

William Reinhard, a spokesman for the Maryland State Department of Education, said the child care facility has been licensed since August 2003.

The license is in the name of Touye Simmons. More recent documents identify the owner and president of For Kids We Care as Touye Harris.

Mr. Reinhard said the department would conduct its own investigation. He could not say whether the center would reopen today.

Messages left yesterday at the center’s two locations were not returned.

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