Photo via [Public Domain] Wikimedia Commons
Photo via [Public Domain] Wikimedia Commons

A Los Angeles man was criminally charged with failure to take necessary steps to prevent his 14-year-old son from taking a loaded handgun from his home, City Attorney Mike Feuer announced Friday.

Santiago Chavez, 54, was charged Tuesday with three misdemeanor counts: allowing a child to take a firearm off-premises, contributing to a minor’s delinquency and allowing a child’s health and safety to be endangered, Feuer said. Each of the counts carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail and $1,000 fine.

Chavez’s son allegedly took a semi-automatic handgun from his home in September and confronted teenagers — with whom he previously had a conflict — behind his home near Carver Middle School in South Los Angeles, city attorneys said. The teen males fled the scene when they saw the handgun tucked in the 14- year-old’s waistband, authorities said.

Los Angeles Unified School District police responded to reports of a man with a gun, and later questioned the boys involved. Authorities recovered a gun — registered to Chavez — that contained a magazine loaded with seven rounds.

School police officials interviewed the father, who said he kept the gun unloaded and covered by a towel in an unlocked bedroom drawer. The ammunition was in a different drawer of the same dresser, Chavez said.

The city attorneys’ complaint contends Chavez violated state law by “willfully and unlawfully” keeping a “pistol, revolver and other firearm capable of being concealed upon the person, loaded and unloaded, within premises that were under his or her custody and control and he or she knew and reasonably should have known that a child was likely to gain access to that firearm without the permission of the child’s parent and legal guardian and the child obtained access to that firearm and thereafter carried the firearm off- premises.”

Chavez is due in court Jan. 14 to answer the charges.

Feuer filed similar charges in October against a mother whose 17-year- old student allegedly brought a fully loaded .45-caliber semi-automatic handgun to Will Rogers High School in Van Nuys on May 13.

The mother, Leah Wilcken, 41, allegedly refused to help officers determine if her son had brought one of her guns with him to school. LAPD officers searched Wilcken’s home the next day and found a shotgun and four more handguns that were not locked up nor properly stored, officials said. One of the weapons was in a kitchen cabinet under the sink, authorities said.

“These events could easily have ended in tragedy. That is why keeping guns out of the hands of our kids is so important,” Feuer said. “My office will continue to aggressively enforce our gun violence prevention laws as well as educate parents on how to safely store their firearms.”

—City News Service

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