Parents Of Teen Shot And Killed By Friend File Wrongful Death Lawsuit
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MOUNT PLEASANT, Pa. (KDKA) - Tuesday marks two years since James J.R. Gustafson, 13, lost his life in an accidental shooting at a home in Mt. Pleasant.
His parents are demanding more justice for their son. They want to see gun manufacturers take the necessary safety precautions needed before guns are placed in the hands of its owners.
Both Mark and Leah Gustafson filed the lawsuit on Monday against Springfield Armory and Saloom Department Store. They're the manufacturer and seller of the gun that killed Gustafson.
"There are simple, inexpensive safety features that have been around for 100 years that would have prevented this accident from happening," said attorney Kelly Iverson from Carlson Lynch.
Iverson is one of the attorneys working this case. Her law firm has teamed up with the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence in Washington, D.C. They believe they have a strong argument here.
"This accident was foreseeable and it was fully preventable with safety mechanisms, with warnings and the manufacturers didn't take those steps," said Iverson.
Gustafson was killed exactly two years ago when his friend John Burnsworth, who was 14 at the time, pulled the trigger. The lawsuit states that Burnsworth thought the gun wasn't loaded when he picked it up because the magazine was removed.
Turns out, there was a live round in the gun's chamber. Iverson said the gun's loaded chamber indicator was barely noticeable, whereas she said it should have had a noticeable warning indicator.
"J.R.'s parents believe in this case. They don't want to see this happen to somebody else," said Iverson.
KDKA's Amy Wadas reached out to Saloom, but they had no comment. KDKA is still waiting to hear back from Springfield Armory.
Once Springfield Armory and Saloom Department Store are served this lawsuit, they will have 20 days to respond, then they will have to go through the proper court proceedings from there.
Burnsworth pleaded guilty to misdemeanor involuntary manslaughter and was sent to a treatment program. He spent about 11 months in a youth rehabilitation facility.
Burnsworth was released in early March after a juvenile court judge ruled that he is rehabilitated. Burnsworth was ordered to continue his education and counseling. He's not allowed unsupervised visits with his biological parents. He's also not allowed contact with the Gustafson family and not allowed in Mt. Pleasant until he's 21 years old. Burnsworth is also not allowed to partake in any type of social media.
At least three other people were also convicted on charges connected to Gustafson's death.
Brooke Nelson, 20, of Connellsville, is awaiting sentencing after she pleaded guilty in February to five counts each of child endangerment and reckless endangerment and a weapons offense. Westmoreland County authorities alleged that she gave a gun to Burnsworth to scare off Gustafson just before he was shot. Nelson was watching three other younger children at the time. She could face up to 55 years in prison.
The owner of the gun that killed Gustafson, Joshua Hudec, 32, of Mt. Pleasant, was sentenced last June to up to 32 months in prison after he pleaded guilty to child endangerment charges.
Christopher Lewis, 43, of Mt. Pleasant pleaded guilty to selling the gun to Hudec. He was sentenced to two years probation.
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