Crime & Justice

Mother faces criminal charges after teenage son takes gun to school

L.A. city prosecutors allege the 17-year old boy brought a gun similar to this one, a .45 caliber semi-automatic handgun, to his high school in Van Nuys. They are charging his mother with failing to safely secure the gun and others in the home.
L.A. city prosecutors allege the 17-year old boy brought a gun similar to this one, a .45 caliber semi-automatic handgun, to his high school in Van Nuys. They are charging his mother with failing to safely secure the gun and others in the home.
Erika Aguilar/KPCC

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The Los Angeles City Attorney said Wednesday he has filed misdemeanor charges against a mother whose son brought a loaded gun to his Van Nuys high school.

City Attorney Mike Feuer called a press conference to announce charges against Leah Wilcken, 41, for failing to safely secure a semi-automatic handgun that her 17-year-old son took to Will Rodgers Continuation School in May.

“It has to be the case that when a parent sends their child to school, they do not fear  that another child is going to have a weapon on campus,” Feuer said.

Feuer described the charges as the first ever filed in Los Angeles against a parent whose child took a gun to school.  But KPCC found records of a 1995 case in which former City Attorney James K. Hahn filed similar charges against a Panorama City woman after her 9-year-old daughter took a gun to her elementary school and fired it on the playground.

California law requires weapons to be safely stored. Anyone who keeps a loaded firearm where children under 18 years can obtain it is required to store the firearm in a locked container or with a locking device that keeps it from functioning, according to state law. Authorities said all firearms made, sold or transferred through state licensed dealers must come with a safety device that locks the gun.

City prosecutors say the teenager took the handgun to school on May 13 and showed it to another student, who later reported it to school officials. The 17-year old eventually gave the gun, which was loaded with six rounds, to school police, according to prosecutors. Police said they also found an additional magazine in his backpack.

Feuer said the teenager had gotten into a fight with another young man at the school the day before.

“This is what we mean when we characterize our work as gun violence prevention,” Feuer said.

Det. Victor Brown with the Los Angeles Police Department’s gun unit said police later searched the teen's residence and found four other firearms stored in dresser drawers and kitchen cabinets. He said the guns were passed down to the mother from a parent who passed away.

Wilcken faces four counts: allowing a child to carry a firearm off premises,  allowing a child to take a gun to school, permitting a child to be in a dangerous situation and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

KPCC sought to get a response from Wilcken but was unable to reach her.  It’s not clear that she is even aware she is being charged. Feuer’s office said they were mailing the woman notice of the charges.