Advertisement
California

Mother charged in teen’s possession of gun at school

The first gun was found inside a backpack belonging to a 17-year-old student at Will Rogers Continuation School in Van Nuys. The weapon was a .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol, loaded with six rounds, police said.

A day later, police served a search warrant at the teenager’s home and discovered more weapons, none of them properly locked or stored, authorities said.

A 12-gauge shotgun was hidden behind a dresser. Two handguns — a Smith & Wesson .38 and a .44 magnum revolver — were inside a dresser drawer. A .22-caliber semiautomatic pistol was stashed in an unlocked kitchen cabinet, next to the sink.

On Wednesday, the city attorney’s office announced the filing of criminal charges against the teenager’s mother in what officials said is a historic attempt to try to hold a parent accountable for a child bringing a firearm to school.

Advertisement

City Atty. Mike Feuer said the case was the first of its kind in Los Angeles and was part of a broader effort to prevent children from easily accessing guns kept at home that they could use to shoot someone accidentally or take to school.

“Guns have no place in or around our schools,” Feuer said. “Our office will continue to take aggressive action to protect our kids. And I call on parents to prevent potentially devastating consequences by safely storing every firearm they own.”

Leah Devahn Wilcken, 41, has been charged with four misdemeanor counts. They include allowing a child to carry a firearm off-premises, allowing a child to take a firearm to school, contributing to the delinquency of a minor and child neglect or endangerment, according to the city attorney’s office.

Each count carries a possible sentence of up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine, Feuer said.

Advertisement

The teenager has also been charged, although Feuer declined to elaborate on his case because of the youth’s age. His name was not released. Wilcken could not be reached for comment.

Feuer, who as a state lawmaker wrote several pieces of gun control legislation, said he hopes the effort will help reduce the risk of shootings at school.

“Let’s prevent tragedies,” he told reporters.

C.D. Michel, a Long Beach-based attorney who has represented the National Rifle Assn. and has criticized Feuer’s gun control policies, expressed concerns about Wednesday’s announcement. He said he feared that the city attorney’s office was trying to hold parents responsible for actions of their children they could not predict, though he cautioned he did not know all of the facts of the case.

“Based on the facts presented today, these charges seem inappropriate,” Michel said. “There would have to be a lot of other aggravating facts and circumstance to justify this kind of piling on of charges.”

Michel is a former law partner of Carmen Trutanich, the previous city attorney, whom Feuer defeated in last year’s election.

The charges announced by the city attorney’s office stem from a May 13 incident in which the teenager allegedly brought the gun to his school. Feuer said the 17-year-old showed the weapon to a friend, who notified school authorities. In addition to the pistol, the boy had an extra seven-round magazine in his backpack, Feuer said. The day before, the teenager had been involved in an altercation with another student, said Rob Wilcox, a spokesman for the city attorney’s office. The teenager allegedly told the other student via Facebook that he should meet him in the parking lot, Wilcox said.

Feuer said the boy’s mother had no known criminal record and had inherited the weapons from a relative.

Advertisement

The school’s principal, Sunshine Sepulveda-Klus, told The Times that campus officials reacted quickly to the firearm report.

“This is a very rare occurrence,” she said.

A Los Angeles Unified School District spokesman said two guns — including the one that led to the recent charges — were confiscated from district campuses during the 2013-2014 academic year. The year before, no firearms were found, but a dozen were recovered during the 2011-2012 academic year, spokesman Daryl Strickland said.

In addition to the charges, Feuer announced that representatives from the nonprofit group Women Against Gun Violence plan to visit some city schools to educate parents on safely storing firearms.

kate.mather@latimes.com

richard.winton@latimes.com


Newsletter
Get our Essential California newsletter
Advertisement