May 11, 2004

Teen girl wounded in accidental shooting

The Spokesman-Review
 

A 13-year-old girl remained in critical condition late Monday after her boyfriend shot her in the head Sunday night with a gun he apparently thought was unloaded, police said.

Spokane Police arrested 20-year-old Reza Abghari Monday morning and charged him with second-degree assault and unlawful possession of a firearm, police spokesman Dick Cottam said.

The girl was transferred from Spokane to a hospital on the west side of the state. She was reported in critical condition on Monday evening, Cottam said.

The incident started Sunday when Abghari hosted a party for the girl, who was his girlfriend, and two 14-year-old boys. They were drinking and playing video games, Sgt. Joe Peterson said.

One of the 14-year-old boys brought his father’s .22-caliber pistol to the party. Abghari took the gun and ejected live cartridges, but one remained in the chamber, Peterson said.

“They had been watching TV and were acting like gangsters,” Peterson said.

Abghari pointed the pistol at one of the 14-year-old boys, who became angry. “Then he pointed it at the girl and he obviously pulled the trigger,” Peterson said. “Then they made up a phony story about a drive-by shooting.”

The 911 call came in at 11:23 p.m., Cottam said. When investigators arrived, the boys and Abghari told police that the girl was shot by someone else.

“They got their stories straight pretty quickly,” Peterson said. “It took detectives quite a bit of time to hammer it out of them.”

Eventually, detectives learned that one of the 14-year-old boys took the gun back to his house. They obtained a search warrant, but his parents consented to a search, Peterson said. Detectives found and retrieved the gun.

Abghari’s father, 54-year-old Hami Abghari, said he was at work at the time of the shooting. He learned about it at about 6 a.m. Monday when his landlord called asking questions.

“If I had been here, nothing would have happened,” Hami Abghari said. “I had seen my son going steady with this girl. Obviously, I thought she was much older.”

Hami Abghari sought political asylum in the United States in 1998, he said. Shortly after, he was able to bring Reza and his daughter to join him.

A teacher all his adult life, Hami Abghari started working in 1999 for the English as a second language program at Gonzaga University, he said.

“I thought it was going to be a happy time,” he said as he wept.

But his employment at Gonzaga ended because he could not get Iranian officials to send the credentials that show he has a master’s degree in applied linguistics. Since 2001, Hami Abghari has been working with developmentally disabled patients who require 24-hour care.

As a result, he works one week on and one week off. The shooting occurred during his work cycle, he said.

Reza Abghari has had trouble adjusting to the new culture, Hami Abghari said. He dropped out of high school after about a month, even though he has spoken English all his life. He’s been in and out of jobs and was convicted of two felonies in 2003, the elder Abghari said.

Hami Abghari had only seen the 13-year-old girl a couple of times. On Saturday, a neighbor complained that Reza Abghari had been inviting teenagers over to the house to party, Hami Abghari said.

“I told him not to bring anyone else here,” he said.

On Sunday night, Hami Abghari called Reza every half-hour until 10 p.m. to make sure he didn’t have any guests in the house, he said.

“He said nobody was here and that I could come look,” Hami Abghari said. “Obviously he was lying.”

On Monday morning Hami Abghari heard a news report about a 13-year-old being shot in the head. He had no clue it was his son’s girlfriend.

He offered to donate blood to help the girl. “They said it wasn’t needed,” he said as he cried.

Peterson confirmed that Hami Abghari offered to help.

“He’s one of the few people that I talked to in all this mess who asked about the victim and was concerned about her,” Peterson said. “It’s a tragedy all around.”


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