PLATTSBURGH — Police have not ruled out charging a Fort Edward 13-year-old in the shooting death of former Chazy teen Gary Cota.
The initial investigation of the June 5 fatality at Cota’s home in the Washington County town indicated the two boys were in an upstairs bedroom, where they were playing with a 12-gauge shotgun owned by Cota’s father, Louis.
The gun discharged a single blast, hitting Gary, 13, in head and killing him instantly.
In a phone interview this week, Fort Edward Police Sgt. Justin Derway spoke about the sensitivity of the case, due to the young ages of the victim and his friend, whose name has not been released.
He also said the case is complex because the incident involved just two people, and neither are able to describe exactly what happened that night.
“The situation with this case is that you have two people in a room,” he said. “One of them is no longer with us, and the other I can’t talk to because the parents have invoked his right to counsel.”
He said they are relying on forensics to process all of the evidence gathered during the investigation and that now all they can do is wait for the results, including autopsy findings,
before making any further judgment in the case.
“The autopsy was conducted at Albany Medical Center, one of the best in the state,” Derway said. “When you are the best, you get busy.”
“We will make a final decision when we have all of the evidence and all of the information.”
Some of Gary’s relatives are calling for charges to be made against the teen who held the shotgun, but it is extremely important that a thorough investigation be completed before taking any such action, Derway said.
Gary’s father says he is just looking for answers.
“We just know Gary didn’t play with that gun,” he said. “What 13-year-old doesn’t know what a gun can do?”
Mr. Cota stressed that the gun has not one, but three, different safety devices that must be released before it will discharged.
“You have to pull the hammer once, and it still won’t fire. You pull the hammer again, and it still won’t fire,” he said.
He said the shotgun, purchased for a hunting trip but never used, is also equipped with a third safety hinge that has to be released before it is fired.
“You have to go through all those steps before it does anything.”
Mr. Cota praised police for their investigation of the case. He is confident the truth will prevail after all the evidence is processed and reviewed.
“Whatever comes out of it, I will understand. You can only charge someone with what you can prove,” he added.
He wants his son to be remembered for his kindness and willingness to help others.
“I met one kid that wanted to tell me about how much Gary meant to him and helped out when other kids were picking on him at school,” he said.
The student told Mr. Cota that Gary came to his aid more than once when students were bullying him.
“He said, ‘Gary never let them pick on me. He sat with me every day at lunch,’” Mr. Cota said. “We are always very proud of him. He was a popular kid who was smart and athletic. He had a lot ahead of him.”
Derway said only time will tell what happens and everyone will have to remain patient until test results and forensics are examined.
“You don’t put the cart before the horse. We will review all evidence, and if charges are warranted, they will be filed.”
Gary, who grew up in Chazy and was an avid New York Yankees fan and enjoyed the sport of wrestling, completed seventh grade at Chazy Central Rural School in June 2010. The family moved to Fort Edward soon afterward.
Candy and Gary Cota Sr., the boy’s grandparents, reside in West Chazy; his great-grandfather, Rodney Parrott, lives in Plattsburgh.
CCRS students made bracelets and key chains that they sold in Cota’s memory to raise money to help promote gun safety.
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