Store owner, customer cleared in rifle mishap

Employee faces misdemeanor charges in handling of firearm

The owner of a Grand Junction sporting goods store and a man who brought in a loaded gun that later discharged, injuring an employee, have been cleared of wrongdoing.

Jerry Stehman, owner of Jerry’s Outdoor Sports 507 30 Road, and Michael Dean, 48, of Loma, had their cases dismissed recently on recommendation from a special prosecutor from Colorado’s Ninth Judicial District.

Misdemeanor charges have been filed against store employee Richard Bacher, who was working on Dean’s rifle in the store last Feb. 9 when it discharged. Fellow employee Kenny Franklin was wounded in the abdomen.

Bacher had placed the rifle upside down in a holding device to install a fore stock and a hammer extension. Bacher said the gun discharged when he pulled the hammer back to test it, according to an affidavit.

Bacher is a former law enforcement officer who briefly served as chief of police in Delta.

Dean had brought the rifle into the store and not told employees it was loaded with one round, according to his arrest affidavit. He told officers that he did not remember that the gun was loaded.

At the time, Mesa County District Attorney Pete Hautzinger turned the case over to the Ninth Judicial District so that he could avoid a conflict of interest.

A motion filed Jan. 29 in Stehman’s case says Deputy District Attorney Edward Veronda of the Ninth District did not believe he had enough evidence to pursue a case against Stehman, who had been set to go to trial.

“After further investigation, the people will not be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Stehman acted in a reckless manner,” according to the motion.

Stehman and Veronda were out of town Wednesday and could not be reached for comment by the Sentinel.

Dean’s case was dismissed in November.

Bacher faces misdemeanor charges of assault with a deadly weapon, prohibited use of a weapon and reckless endangerment. A trial is set for March 16.

Family members of Kenny Franklin have told The Daily Sentinel he has not fully recovered from his injuries.

According to arrest affidavits in the case, Franklin told law enforcement that he believed the shooting was an accident.


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