Mills Man Denies Shooting Child With BB Gun
A Mills man faces a felony charge after allegedly shooting a young girl with a BB gun and causing serious injuries.
John Thellman pleaded not guilty to one count of child abuse Tuesday morning in District Court. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
Charging documents say a police officer was sent to the Lariat Trailer Park on Aug. 21 shortly before 7 p.m., after the child's mother reported that Thellman had accidently shot her adoptive daughter.
First responders confirmed that the child was hit twice: once in the jaw and once in her right breast.
Thellman was reportedly intoxicated at the time of the incident, and police found him in such a state when they spoke with him. Thellman reportedly said he did not think it was a big deal, nor did he think it was reckless, "as he was an expert marksman for the military."
"However, Thellman has no military experience," the affidavit states.
The child's mother told police that Thellman had been inside the trailer home playing with his BB gun while two children played outside. Thellman said he had been shooting at the front door for awhile when one of his nieces opened the door and was hit by a BB pellet.
However, police note, the child was hit by two pellets.
Thellman said he was upset and disposed of the BB gun and everything that came with it. The gun, pellets and air compressors were found in the trailer park dumpster by police.
Police called an agent with the Wyoming Department of Family Services due to the house being dirty and one person having a healing wound on her left arm, which she said was due to a dog bite. The children were retrieved from the trailer home as it was "not a safe place" for them to stay.
The two BBs were surgically removed from the child at Mountain View Regional Hospital. Police collected the BBs as evidence on the morning of Sept. 7.
In a forensic interview at the Children's Advocacy Project, the child said "uncle shot me," later following with, "because I opened the door and he was mad." The child then became silent and did not want to talk about the situation, according to the affidavit.
Police obtained medical records and the DFS safety plan from the incident. The child reportedly was waking up with night terrors and constantly saying, "Uncle shot me." She also reportedly often asked if she was safe.
The child was reportedly returned to the hospital after the surgery because she was having difficulty breathing, and had a raspy voice for some time after the surgery.
Thellman had told police that the incident was a "freak" accident, claiming the BB gun had malfunctioned and fired two pellets simultaneously as the child walked into the house. An examination by the Wyoming State Crime Laboratory found the BB gun was in proper working condition, with the safety features functioning properly.
Thellman remains free, having posted a $2,500 surety bond.
The case has been placed on the July 30 trial stack, but Assistant District Attorney Kevin Taheri indicated in court Tuesday that his office may file to have the matter continued due to a scheduling conflict.