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Juneau man charged with assault after accidentally shooting brother last year

Posted: February 19, 2012 - 1:09am

A Juneau man has been charged with felony assault after accidently shooting his brother in the leg as they were driving home from a gun range in December.

The district attorney’s office charged Seth B. Bingham, 32, with one felony count of second-degree domestic violence assault and one misdemeanor count of misconduct involving weapons.

The charges have incensed and perplexed the family, who say their family has suffered enough.

“This is absolutely tragic,” the boy’s father, Boyce Bingham, said in a phone interview Friday. “Everybody, including the legal system, is a loser in this thing — family devastation, loss of limb, dignity, self-respect.”

As the Empire reported earlier, the two brothers were driving home from a day at the Hank Harmon Rifle Range when Seth disassembled his pistol in the truck. A round went off, striking Joseph “Joe” Bingham, 27, in the femoral artery in his leg.

Joseph was taken to Bartlett Regional Hospital then medevaced to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where his right leg was amputated above the knee as a result of the accident.

The shooting has taken an enormous toll on both brothers, Boyce said.

“Why the district attorney thinks that it’s important to pursue this in the interest of public justice or to ensure the law has been represented, I think is categorically wrong,” he said. “The amount of stress this has placed on Seth’s family, as he internalizes it, is horrible. It’s had a negative effect on his life, our life, the life of his family, our relations. ... Joe and Seth have a great relationship. It’s very difficult for Seth to see his brother hobble around on a crutch.”

Both Seth and Joseph declined to be interviewed on Friday. District Attorney David Brower refused to comment, saying, “I’m not going to discuss any pending case or why charges were brought. I’m not going to discuss my decision making.”

According to an affidavit filed by Brower, Seth told police in an interview that the pistol was a new weapon to him, a Springfield XD without a traditional external hammer, and that he thought he had taken the magazine out.

“Bingham stated that he thought he had taken the magazine out and ran the slide to unload the barrel, and then pulled the trigger to release the pressure in the gun,” the affidavit states. “... Bingham stated that in order to separate the top from the gun frame and lower portion of the gun, you have to lift up two pins on order to release the slide and take it apart. However, you cannot lift the two pins without releasing the trigger. Bingham stated that he pulled the trigger and the gun went off and that he had his hand over the ejection port when the gun went off,” the affidavit states.

When Joseph was hit, Seth immediately stopped the truck, made a tourniquet to place around Joseph’s leg to stop the bleeding and called 911.

Juneau Police Department and medics met them at Floyd Dryden Middle School.

Boyce said that Seth bought the pistol the same week of the accident.

He added that Seth’s quick actions saved Joseph’s life, saying that when a femoral artery is severed, people can die within minutes.

“Seth shot Joe, but Seth also saved Joe’s life,” Boyce said. “He acted appropriately. He knew exactly what needed to happen.”

Charges were leveled against Seth last month, and he is scheduled to appear in court for a status hearing in the case on March 8.

As the case continues, Boyce says both his sons are trying to move on with their lives. Joseph, for instance, was married on Saturday.

“Everybody’s trying to get on with our lives, put this behind us,” he said. He described the shooting as being a careless human mistake, and said, “I’m not blaming the legal system for all of our woes, but for heaven’s sake, it doesn’t make sense to press charges... There is such a thing as mercy, there’s a way of handling malicious intent versus accidents.”

• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at emily.miller@juneauempire.com.

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