Rocori teen testifies he took his dad's gun

Associated Press

ST. CLOUD, Minn. -- The teenager charged with killing two Rocori High School students took a handgun on the day of the shootings from a dresser where his father kept several guns, the suspect's father testified Monday.

John Jason McLaughlin apparently sneaked into the spare bedroom where the dresser was kept and took a .22-caliber Colt allegedly used in the shootings of Seth Bartell, 14, and Aaron Rollins, 17.

McLaughlin selected the weapon that he had shot before at a Twin Cities metro area gun range, his father, David McLaughlin, a Stearns County sheriff's deputy, testified.

John Jason McLaughlin faces first- and second-degree murder charges in the deaths of Bartell and Rollins, who were killed in September 2003. McLaughlin's lawyer, Dan Eller, is using a mental illness defense and has said the teen suffers from paranoid schizophrenia. He has conceded that McLaughlin shot Rollins accidentally, but only intended to injure Bartell.


Prosecutors also played a videotape of an investigator's interview with McLaughlin after the shooting in which McLaughlin admitted to the shootings and said he was upset after being teased. He said he only meant to hurt Bartell.

McLaughlin appears distressed and slams his fist onto a table during the interview when told that one of the boys had died.

Outside court, Eller said the interview was his "best piece of evidence" to show McLaughlin didn't intend to kill anyone.

David McLaughlin said he watched his son handle guns at the gun range and also kept an eye on his accuracy. "He handled it OK," David McLaughlin said. He said he never had any reason to be concerned about his son using the guns unsafely.

A photo shown by the prosecution of the drawer where the guns were kept showed that some of the weapons had locks on them, while others did not. David McLaughlin said he was cleaning the guns and hadn't yet put the locks back on some of them.

There were about 10 handguns in the dresser.

The prosecution and defense were expected to complete their cases Tuesday, and Judge Michael Kirk -- who is hearing the case -- could have a verdict as early as Wednesday.

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