MANCHESTER — Bail was set at $25,000 Friday for a city man charged with felony reckless conduct for allegedly putting his loaded handgun within reach of his girlfriend's 5-year-old son who shot himself last November.
Sonday Bishop, 29, of 420 Spruce St., was arrested Thursday night by members of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office and arraigned Friday afternoon in Hillsborough County Superior Court North. The grand jury returned a secret indictment for Bishop on Dec. 18, 2013.
Bishop was arrested late Thursday afternoon during a traffic stop. When he was arrested, he's accused of having in his possession a baggy containing a green leafy substance and $700 in cash.
Assistant Hillsborough County Attorney Karen Gorham said a passenger in the vehicle told police he had called Bishop to make a weekly marijuana buy. Gorham said additional charges will depend on test results on the green material seized from Bishop after his arrest.
At Bishop's arraignment Friday afternoon in Hillsborough County Superior Court North, Gorham said Bishop had previously been told by the Division for Children Youth and Families not to let the child handle the gun. But despite that warning, Gorham said, Bishop put the loaded .22 caliber handgun between the wall and mattress while he, his girlfriend, the couple's eight-month-old daughter and his girlfriend's five-year-old son were all in bed together, watching a movie at about 2:30 a.m. on Nov. 30.
The indictment says the boy was on the mattress next to where Bishop had placed the loaded gun. Bishop reported hearing a "pop" and the child, who was under the covers, began crying. Bishop told police he put the gun on the kitchen table and his girlfriend called 911.
Gorham said doctors reported the bullet missed the boy's femoral artery by one centimeter. It cracked a bone, which would heal, and exited the left buttock. The bullet was mostly intact, said Gorham, except for a small piece that couldn't be removed.
Gorham said staff at the child's preschool had called DCYF two months earlier because of things the child said about guns, but when DCYF spoke to Bishop Oct. 1, he assured them that the child knew a gun wasn't a toy. But he also told the DCYF representative that he didn't have a gun in the residence because his brother, who was on parole, also lived in the apartment.
Gorham said Bishop told Manchester police Officer Derek Feather he kept the gun in an office on Lowell Street, but said: "(Victim) knows when the safety is on."
The child's mother, Charmaine Beard, contradicted Bishop, telling police: "(Bishop) carries it on him at all times, for protection."
Gorham said Bishop admitted letting the child hold the gun at least five times, but said it was not loaded. Bishop also said the boy was curious about the gun, and he intended to take the child to a shooting range so he could fire it.
Bishop interrupted Gorham, and the judge, several times, challenging what was being said, including when Gorham said Bishop was arrested right after a drug deal. "I object to that," he said.
The judge asked if Bishop wished to have a court-appointed attorney, noting he had not filled out a financial affidavit, a prerequisite to assessing eligibility.
"I want to go out and find my own," said Bishop. He objected to the proposed bail, saying: "I wish that it could be lowered." He suggested $15,000 cash/surety.
"Everything is coming so fast," he said. "I haven't had a chance to gather my thoughts. . . I'm just in a state of confusion."
But Gorham pressed for the $25,000 bail, saying Bishop poses a danger to the public.
Abramson urged Bishop to fill out the affidavit so that she could appoint an attorney who could help him decide what he wanted to do about representation. She urged him not to try to defend himself.
Abramson set bail at $25,000 cash/surety requested by the prosecutor, with conditions that include no weapons, no illegal drugs, no contact with the victim and no witness tampering. Bishop is also to provide a current mailing address.