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Father in court for son’s accidental shooting

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    Trooper Shaun Flynn, right, walks out of a hearing with Ryan Koch as he shields his face from cameras. Scan this photo with the Prindeo app for a video. CHRIS REBER/TIMES NEWS

Published October 21. 2017 10:30PM

A Monroe County judge has denied a motion to throw out a felony charge against a man whose 4-year-old son died in an accidental shooting earlier this year.

Ryan Patrick Koch, 22, of Chestnuthill Township, is accused of leaving out his loaded, .40-caliber handgun in the early hours of June 18. His son, 4-year-old Bentley Koch, fatally shot himself.

Prosecutors believe the shooting was accidental, but say Koch bears responsibility because he left the gun, with no safety, and a round in the chamber, in the living room of his home the night before, after smoking marijuana and playing video games.

He is facing felony charges of involuntary manslaughter and endangering the welfare of a child, as well as misdemeanor charges of reckless endangerment and marijuana possession.

Koch’s attorney, Thomas Sundmaker, asked Magisterial District Judge Colleen Mancuso to throw out the involuntary manslaughter charge during a preliminary hearing on Friday.

Mancuso denied the motion and agreed to send the charges against Koch to Monroe County Common Pleas Court.

She did however, grant Sundmaker’s request to have Koch’s bail lowered to $100,000 from $200,000. Sundmaker cited the fact that Koch had no criminal record before the incident, and does not represent a flight risk.

Bentley Koch was found at a home on Ash Lane in Chestnuthill Township, where Ryan Koch lived with his mother. Koch had custody of the child at the time.

Friday’s hearing consisted mostly of testimony from Trooper Shaun Flynn, who responded to the incident.

Flynn testified that Koch changed his story about the gun several times, before admitting that he did not know where he left it. Flynn said he was “shocked” by some of Koch’s behavior at the scene, as well as during police interviews that day. Koch wasn’t arrested or charged until last month.

“I was surprised that there was a lack of emotion. He stated ‘I am not an emotional guy,’” Flynn testified.

Flynn said that Koch initially denied any knowledge of the gun, then he “swore” that he left it atop a cabinet out of the boy’s reach, and with no round in the chamber. But he said there was no way that the boy could have loaded the weapon himself.

“Mr. Koch stated ‘he must have, because I didn’t,” Flynn testified.

Finally, Flynn said, Koch said that he left the gun on the cabinet that night, but moved it again after. He said after going to bed, he heard something outside and grabbed the gun, but he couldn’t remember what he did after. Flynn said Koch told him smoking marijuana did not affect his judgment.

Sundmaker asked Judge Mancuso to throw out the involuntary manslaughter charge, because Koch did not directly cause the death of his son.

Assistant District Attorney Michael Rakaczewski said that Koch taught his son about guns, and normally kept it secure, but he smoked marijuana the night before and loaded a live round before leaving it out.

“Everything to make that gun work, he set in stage,” Rakaczewski said.

Bentley’s mother was in the courtroom Friday. She did not wish to speak to reporters.

Friends of Ryan Koch were also in the courtroom, offering support for a man they said was going through a tragedy himself.

“An awesome dad. He loved that kid more than himself,” Jimmy Holler said.

They said that Bentley’s death consumed him and took precedence over eating and sleeping.

“He thinks about it all the time, it plays over in his head when he closes his eyes,” Cassie Lamberty said.

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