The Judiciary of Guam is reviewing the conduct of one of its probation officers – a trained law enforcement professional – from whose car a gun allegedly was stolen and used to murder a man in Maite Saturday.
Police arrested and the Office of the Attorney General brought charges against Jayson Gaan Sowas for allegedly murdering the man. According to a news release from the Guam Police Department, Mr. Sowas told police he stole the gun he allegedly used to murder the man from an “unsecured vehicle.” He then went to the HI-5 logo shop in Maite, where he encountered the victim laying down, and shot the man.
The logo shop is next door to a 24-hour laundromat used by hundreds of patrons daily. According to the prosecutor, Renaida San Nicolas, Mr. Sowas first threatened patrons there before walking next door to shoot the man. Asked why he threatened the laundromat patrons, he told police, “I just did.”
Asked why he shot the man, he replied, “I don’t know, I just wasn’t thinking when I shot him.”
Police officers responded to the shooting at around 3:30 p.m. Saturday.
According to the affidavit of the prosecutor who brought the charges against Mr. Sowas, the defendant stole the gun from the vehicle belonging to Jason Muna Mira. While the affidavit does not say whether Mr. Sowas told police Mr. Mira’s car was locked or unlocked, it does state Mr. Mira reported his firearm stolen to police.
He made that report at the Central Precinct Command at around 6:24 p.m. Saturday. Mr. Mira told police his car was locked and parked at the probation office in Hagatna. He said that at about 5:45 p.m. that day, he checked the black sling pouch containing his firearm that he had left in his car, “and noticed that his firearm was missing.”
Mr. Mira is a probation officer of the Superior Court of Guam. According to court spokeswoman Jannette Samson, the matter is under review. However, the firearm in question was not court issued, she said.
The Robert Michael Webber Firearms Liability Act of 1990 – a law enacted after a minor accessed an unsecured firearm and shot and killed the minor son of Lee and June Webber – codified terms of imprisonment, civil fines, and torts for the improper storage, or otherwise failure to secure firearms. The law speaks mainly to conduct involving minors.
The law references a section of the firearms code of Guam, contained in Title 10 Guam Code Annotated – the compilation of the laws of Guam – that states whoever sold or transferred the gun to Mr. Mira should have included a note that states:
“It is unlawful and punishable by imprisonment and a fine for any adult to store or leave a firearm with out placing it in a secure locked cabinet or closet, or without a trigger lock in place.”
The requirement of the trigger lock was added by the Robert Michael Webber Firearms Liability Act of 1990. A licensed gunholder’s failure – or omission of required act under the firearms code – to abide by requirements, can lead to imprisonment of not less than five years, and a fine of not less than $5,000.
The law has never been tested in a criminal case, or by charges brought by any attorney general since its enactment by Joseph Ada, the governor who signed the law on January 4, 1991. This is according to the law’s namesake’s father, Mr. Webber.
The law was introduced by George Bamba in the 20th Guam Legislature, and was approved by a supermajority of the 21-member legislature at the time. The only senator to vote “no” to its passage was Tommy Tanaka.
According to the law’s legislative intent, “It is the intent of the Legislature to make it a serious enough criminal offense, and attach civil liability to the negligent keeping and handling of guns, that such activity will not occur.”