A 21-year-old Spokane man was convicted Tuesday of third-degree assault for shooting a teenage girl in the head while pretending to be a gangster.
Remarkably, she lived to testify in the two-day, nonjury trial that resulted in Reza Abghari’s conviction.
Abghari learned everything he knew about firearms from television and movies, prosecution and defense attorneys agreed. As a result, Tara Rader, now 14, is blind in her right eye and deaf in her right ear.
Also, Rader said, the right side of her face is numb and she may never recover her senses of smell and taste. Surgery may restore her lost hearing, but not her vision, she said.
Rader said she and three other young teenagers had gathered at Abghari’s home at 707 E. Kiernan on May 9 when BuonPheng “Pang” Phimmasone arrived with his father’s Walther P22 handgun. The weapon was loaded with .22-caliber “long rifle” cartridges.
“A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and this is just the sort of situation that cliche was created for,” Assistant Public Defender Richard Mathisen said.
Mathisen said Abghari believed incorrectly that he had unloaded the semiautomatic weapon before using it as a “prop” to entertain his guests: “Look at me. I’m a gangster.”
Testimony indicated Abghari worked the slide to eject cartridges and assumed, when the slide locked in the open position and the magazine was empty, that the gun was unloaded.
That’s what happens when a television “hero” runs out of ammunition and has to slap in another clip, Mathisen said. But, he said, Abghari missed the lesson about making sure the chamber is empty and never pointing even an unloaded gun at someone you don’t intend to shoot.
Deputy Prosecutor Matt Duggan argued that even if Abghari was only playing, his intent was to produce a frightened reaction – an element of second-degree assault. Duggan noted that Dustin Anderson testified he was scared when Abghari pointed the gun at him before attempting to unload it.
Rader couldn’t remember whether she was scared.
“We were just drinking, having a good time, I guess,” Rader said, adding that she was playing video games and had a buzz from a couple of vodka shots.
“Everyone was playing with it,” she said of the pistol. “I guess I played with the gun, too, but I don’t remember.”
She said she remembers seeing Abghari removing cartridges from the weapon, but can’t remember him pointing it at her or shooting her between the eyes at a distance of 12 to 18 inches. Her next memory is being in the back of an ambulance.
There was little dispute about the facts. Abghari and other witnesses agreed he shot Rader while imitating scenes he had seen on television. But Superior Court Judge Kathleen O’Connor said there was no evidence that Abghari intended to harm anyone.
Because of that, O’Connor said, she couldn’t convict Abghari of second-degree assault with a firearm as charged. Instead, she convicted him of third-degree assault with a firearm, which requires only recklessness.
She also convicted Abghari of being a felon in possession of a firearm. Abghari was previously convicted of second-degree theft and second-degree malicious mischief.
Abghari tentatively faces a standard range of 27 to 30 months in prison when O’Connor sentences him on Dec. 16.