Man Taught Son to Work Gun, Prosecutor Says

John L. Hall, 56, is charged with five weapons offenses in his 8-year-old son's alleged shooting of a classmate, 7.
John L. Hall, 56, is charged with five weapons offenses in his 8-year-old son's alleged shooting of a classmate, 7. (Ho - Reuters)
By Ernesto LondoƱo
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 26, 2006

The father of an 8-year-old boy arrested in the shooting of a 7-year-old girl at their Germantown day-care center provided his son with violent video games and showed him how to cock and release a gun hammer the day before the boy pulled the trigger, a prosecutor said yesterday.

John L. Hall has "significant influence" over the juvenile suspect, Montgomery County Assistant State's Attorney Karyn McAuliffe said during a bond hearing for Hall, who has been charged with numerous weapons offenses and was arrested the same day as his son.

"He shares a bedroom with the 8-year-old child where he keeps the gun," McAuliffe said, referring to the .38-caliber Taurus revolver suspected of being used to shoot the girl in the upper right arm. "The child had previously been discovered playing with bullets."

Hall's sister, Darlene Hall, 53, disputed the prosecutor's characterization of her brother's influence over the child. "My brother is not a monster," she said.

The shooting victim, a second-grader at S. Christa McAuliffe Elementary, was scheduled to be released last night from Children's Hospital in the District, her father said in a statement issued by the hospital. Neither he nor the girl was identified.

Law enforcement sources said the boy took the gun to the For Kids We Care Inc. center Tuesday after telling classmates last Friday after a fight that he had easy access to guns. The sources said the boy, who was not identified because he was charged as a juvenile, threatened to rob the girl before firing the single shot. Police have not disclosed the charges against the boy.

Montgomery District Court Judge Mary Beth McCormick reduced Hall's bond to $75,000 yesterday after authorities charged him Tuesday with leaving a firearm within reach of an unsupervised minor and two other gun charges.

He is to appear before a judge again today because police have filed two additional weapons charges against him -- the unlawful transfer of a firearm and possession of a firearm by a felon convicted of a violent crime, which carries a mandatory minimum five-year sentence for a conviction.

Yesterday, police arrested a second man, Clyde Colmes Jr., 53, of Germantown, who they said was the registered owner of the weapon fired at the day-care center. Police said Colmes gave Hall the gun knowing that Hall couldn't possess one.

Assistant public defender Samantha Sandler said Hall has worked at the National Institutes of Health for more than a decade and has not been in trouble since 1989. Before then, he had been convicted of numerous crimes, including assault with the intent to maim.

Darlene Hall acknowledged her brother's criminal history, which stretched from 1968 to 1989, but said, "As an adult, he's been a productive citizen."

She said her nephew has had long-standing behavior problems.

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