A 14-year-old Dale City youth who allegedly shot a 12-year-old girl with a BB gun was indicted as an adult Monday on charges of aggravated malicious wounding.
If convicted, Archie James Anderson could get a 25-year sentence. Anderson was arrested in late October after allegedly telling Prince William County police that he had shot a young neighbor in the face with a BB gun. According to court records, the neighbor was on her way to get the mail in front of her home when a pellet struck her in the eye.
Anderson, who was playing with friends at the time of the Oct. 11 incident, told police that the gun went off accidentally as he was standing in an upstairs window, and that he never intended to hit the girl. Anderson and several friends ran to help the girl after she was struck and assisted her in calling 911, according to court records.
Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court Judge Paul F. Gluchowski certified Anderson as an adult Dec. 15 and sent charges of malicious wounding--a lesser offense--to the grand jury. The grand jury returned an indictment Monday against Anderson on charges of aggravated malicious wounding after hearing evidence in the case.
Aggravated malicious wounding, along with murder, is one of a limited number of crimes allowing the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court to automatically send youths 14 or older to circuit court as adults. To be convicted of aggravated malicious wounding, an assailant must shoot, stab, cut or wound another person with the intent to main, disable, disfigure or kill, and the victim must suffer "permanent and significant physical impairment."
Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Claiborne T. Richardson said yesterday that the pellet remains lodged behind the girl's eye and is resting on an optic nerve. Richardson said that although the girl has not lost her vision, there is a chance that she could be blinded permanently because of the injury.
Richardson said he takes the case seriously, treating it as he would any other that involves a significant injury. Richardson said he thinks Anderson targeted the girl and intended to hurt her.
"You might look at the fact that the weapon used was a BB gun, and you might not think that a BB gun can do a lot of damage. But yes, it can," Richardson said. "It shouldn't be treated lightly."
Anderson's court-appointed attorney, Arthur von Keller IV, said yesterday that Anderson is simply a child who was playing with a BB gun with his classmates and was involved in an accident that inadvertently injured the girl.
"It is unfortunate that this accident happened, but to subject a 14-year-old child to being tried and sentenced as an adult and to possibly serve years in prison for a BB-gun incident is absurd," von Keller said. "All of us as children played with BB guns. There but for the grace of God goes any of us."
In a brief submitted to the court in December, von Keller indicated that Anderson did not mean to hurt the girl.
"Archie contends that the shooting was accidental and there was no intent to shoot or to injure and certainly not to maim," von Keller wrote. "The juvenile could have been charged with a panoply of offenses. . . . .The commonwealth has instead chosen to charge a 14-year-old with the most serious offense short of murder for what is in reality an unfortunate childhood incident."