The Archuleta County Sheriff’s Office has released the names of the juveniles involved in a shooting last week in Arboles, in hopes of using the tragic incident as an educational tool for other families that may have weapons and/or children.
Archuleta County Undersheriff Tonya Hamilton said the victim is Branden Patten and his brother, Dakota Patten, has been identified as the person who pulled the trigger. No arrests have been made in relation to the shooting, she said.
Family members were consulted, and they agreed to release the children’s names, Hamilton said.
The shooting remains under investigation; it had not been officially ruled an accident as of Tuesday, Hamilton said. An autopsy of Branden was completed Tuesday in Durango.
Archuleta County Coroner Dan Keuning said the cause of death was a shotgun wound to the neck. A ruling whether the shooting was accidental must come from police, Keuning said.
The shooting was reported shortly after 3 p.m. Friday near Arboles, a dispersed community 40 miles southeast of Durango by Navajo Lake State Park.
Authorities found Branden Patten dead at the scene.
According to Hamilton, three brothers – Branden, Dakota and Christopher, 10 – were told to go play outside Friday by their older sibling, who was watching them at the time.
The three brothers, instead of staying on their property, forced their way into an unoccupied summer home and broke into a locked cabinet that had two guns, one of which was loaded.
Hamilton said she was not immediately aware how the juveniles were able to break into the locked cabinet.
Hamilton said the homeowner was contacted and told authorities the house hadn’t been occupied since June 2016.
After Branden was shot, the other two brothers ran to their home and alerted their older sibling, who called 911.
Hamilton said authorities are investigating the shooting like any other case. In Colorado, juveniles younger than 10 are not allowed to be found culpable of a crime, she said.
“Once we complete the investigation, we have to decide collectively with the resources available in the community ... what’s best to do for the family and for the 7-year-old that shot his brother,” she said. “How do we handle this the best way?”
Previous reports indicate the family lives in Arboles, and that Branden Patten attended school in Pagosa Springs. A GoFundMe campaign has been set up to help the family and with the cost of funeral expenses: www.gofundme.com/family-lost-9-year-old-son.