Emotional hearing for Weber County man who accidentally shot his brother
Nephi • After sharing stories about ghosts and poltergeists, brothers Eric and Cameron Charlton, along with Cameron's friend Jonathan Hummell, were a little spooked as they sat at their campsite near Yuba Lake on May 28.
With coyotes howling in a nearby field, Eric Charlton, 27, decided to grab a .45 caliber handgun from his truck to help ease their fears.
As they sat around the fire that burned into the early morning, Hummell, 17, testified in 4th District Court on Wednesday that the three talked about life in the Marine Corps â Eric Charlton had served for seven years â about the Charltons' great-grandfather and about a girl that Cameron, 17, may have had a crush on. Eric Charlton had consumed two glasses of Captain Morgan rum mixed with cola by this time, and the younger boys had also been drinking.
It was then that the conversation turned to trust, and Charlton took out his gun in a swinging motion, and accidentally shot his younger brother.
Hummell testified that Charlton told his younger brother, "You know you're my brother when you can trust me with this," while swinging his arm across his body. The gun fired, and a bullet passed through Cameron's left temple.
Hummell testified he never saw Charlton put the gun to his younger brother's head or pull the trigger. Cameron died at the campsite.
Charlton was in court Wednesday for a preliminary hearing to determine whether there was enough evidence for him to stand trial on the charges of manslaughter, a second-degree felony; reckless endangerment, a class A misdemeanor; and carrying a dangerous weapon under the influence of alcohol/drugs, a class B misdemeanor.
Judge James Brady did not issue a ruling Wednesday, but said he would take it under advisement and would file a written decision on whether Charlton will be bound over on one or more of the charges.
Charlton sobbed throughout most of the eight-hour hearing while listening to testimonies from law enforcement officials, medical examiners and Hummell, the only eyewitness who saw the shooting occur. The courtroom was overflowing with friends and family members, most of whom also became emotional during parts of testimony.
Charlton had told law enforcement that he initially removed the magazine from the gun, and even pulled the slide back to show the teens that the weapon was empty earlier in the evening, court documents state. He showed the two teens different firearm techniques before replacing the magazine. He told police, however, that he did not remember charging the gun's chamber with a live round.
"I honest to God don't [remember,]" Charlton told an officer during a recorded interview played in court. "It's all blank right now."
Susanne Gustin, Charlton's attorney, argued in court Wednesday that is possible that if the magazine was slammed into the gun with too much force, it could load a bullet into the chamber without the operator's knowledge.
Justin Bechaver, with the state's crime lab, testified on Wednesday that about 30 percent of the time he forcefully loaded a magazine on Charlton's 1911 Springfield, a bullet was pushed into the chamber.
Gustin argued that this may show that Charlton did not show reckless endangerment, because he didn't know the gun was loaded.
But Juab County Attorney Jared Eldridge argued that while the shooting may not have been intentional, Charlton still handled the gun recklessly, resulting in his brother's death.
"The fact that the gun is pointed at a human being while loaded is reckless," he said.
Gustin said outside of the courtroom this case is somewhat unusual because the victim's family is also the suspect's family. But she said the family is standing behind their son.
"They are behind Eric 100 percent," she said. "They've lost Cameron. They don't want to lose Eric too. They don't want to lose another son."