Date: December 15, 2010
Location: Portland, OR
Names: Jessica Heffler, Benjamin Allen Sprague
Benjamin Allen Sprague, age 23, of Happy Valley is scheduled to appear in court on December 29 facing charges of recklessly endangering another person and third degree assault after he shot his girlfriend in the abdomen.
According to reports published in The Sky Valley Chronicle, Sprague told authorities that he mistook a loaded .45 caliber handgun for a BB gun after he’d been drinking with friends on December 13. He reportedly said that he pulled the trigger of what he thought was the BB gun in the direction of his girlfriend Jessica Heffler, age 17, who was standing nearby.
The .45 caliber bullet struck Heffler in the abdomen. She was badly wounded and required reconstructive surgery for bowel damage.
Sprague’s friend who owned the gun and in whose home the shooting occurred, told police he had been cleaning the gun and had left the room for a few minutes and did not know that Sprague had picked up the gun and was playing with it.
We are sorry that a prank like this could cause so much harm, and send our wishes for a full recovery to Jessica.
Jessica was a minor at the time of the shooting. When children are injured, the law can get complicated fast. For example, while the standard Oregon injury case must be filed within 2 years of the accident, the statute of limitations for children, on the other hand, is not so straightforward. ORS 12.160 steps you through the process for figuring out the statute of limitations. First, the regular statute of limitations applies. Second, it doesn’t start running until the child turns 18 years old. But, third, the statute cannot be extended more than five years. And fourth, it cannot be extended beyond the child’s 19th birthday. In addition to the statute of limitations, there’s also the issue of money. Money recovered belongs to the injured child, not to his or her parents. In certain cases, a judge will need to oversee the situation to make sure this happens.