No Charges to Be Filed in Ethan Song Case; Death Ruled Accidental
Guilford residents united on Feb. 2 to share stories and honor the life of Ethan Song, who died Jan 31 of a gunshot wound. Following news that the owner of the handgun will not be charged, the Song family announced a press conference to be on Tuesday, Nov. 27 to address gaps in the state’s laws. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier)
Nearly 10 months after 15-year-old Ethan Song was fatally shot, the state has announced it will not press charges against Daniel Markle, the owner of the gun. That announcement, made on Nov. 20, also ruled the high school freshman’s Jan. 31 death an accident.
The report released by Waterbury State’s Attorney Maureen Platt concludes that charges could not be filed against the owner of the gun because there was insufficient evidence to prove that the weapon, a .357 Magnum handgun, was stored in a loaded state, a necessary requirement for prosecution according to current law.
Platt also concluded that, “Mr. Song’s death was a tragic event in that he accidentally shot himself in the head with a .357 magnum handgun which was stored in a master bedroom closet at the location where he was shot.”
Platt’s report gives some details about the actual shooting. Police responded to the shooting on Jan. 31 and found Song, who had suffered a gunshot wound to the temple, and another minor. Song was taken to Yale New Haven Hospital where he was then pronounced dead.
According to the investigation, the gun was one of three in the home that were stored in a cardboard box inside a Tupperware container in a closet. Each gun had an operable gunlock and while there is no evidence that the gun used was loaded when it was in the box, ammunition for the weapon was stored in the same place, as were keys to the gunlocks.
Platt said that there was no evidence that Song knew the gun was loaded or played any role in loading the weapon. However, Platt said investigations showed that the day of the shooting was not the first time Song and the other minor had played with the guns.
Ultimately, Platt concluded that while the death of Ethan Song “was a horrific and preventable tragedy,” the gun owner could not be prosecuted under current law.
“Existing law does not support a prosecution of the gun owner under any applicable statute,” she said. “Two premises underlie this belief: (1) The gun owner’s conduct in storing the guns did not itself violate the law, and (2) there is a lack of evidence that he knew, or should have known, that a juvenile was likely to gain access to the guns without his permission.”
The Song family still has another lawsuit pending against Markle in New Haven Superior Court. The lawsuit filed by Song’s parents, Mike and Kristin Song, claims that Markle “unsafely stored and/or kept a loaded gun on the premises when he knew or should have known that a minor was likely to gain access to the gun without the permission of his parent.”
The lawsuit lists six accounts including recklessness, liability, and negligence. The Song family is seeking monetary and punitive damages.
Following the news, Mike Song, Ethan’s father, put a short video on Facebook thanking those who have supported his family and letting people know what comes next.
“To say the least we are very disappointed in the judgment and the law that wraps around this case,” he said. “We think its time for a change. We would also like to let you know that we are going to unveil and discuss of the first time a bold initiative that has high-level buy-in from our state government here in Connecticut, law enforcement, and people on both sides of the political fence. Its time that when someone is reckless, negligent, when someone endangers children, that they be held accountable and it is a very simple thing that we can do to protect all of our kids.”
The Song family will hold a press conference on Tuesday, Nov. 27 at 11 a.m. on the steps of the First Congregational Church. State Representative Sean Scanlon (D-98) will attend. Song encouraged all residents to come out and attend the press conference.
“You can be part of this,” he said. “I am going to tell you one thing, I am going to see this through. We are going to achieve something for Ethan that is really going to be a miracle if you can come along and help us out.”