FREDERICK, Colorado — An Adams County deputy and his wife both face charges in connection with the death of their three-year-old daughter, according to the Weld County District Attorney's Office.
The Frederick Police Department (FPD) issued summonses to Elaine and Brett Eskam charging each of them with six counts of unlawful storage of a firearm, which is a class 2 misdemeanor.
On May 8, at about 10:45 a.m. FPD responded to a report of a shooting at a home in the 6800 block of 2nd Street. When they arrived they found a 3-year-old girl who had been shot. She was later pronounced dead at the hospital.
The Weld County Coroner's Office identified the victim as Avery Elaine Eskam. She died due to injuries suffered during the incident, but the coroner's office said the final cause and manner of death are pending the completion of an autopsy and laboratory testing.
Adams County Sheriff's Office confirmed that Avery was the daughter of Sgt. Brett Eskam, and released the following statement:
"Our entire agency is deeply saddened and joins the community in mourning the loss of the Eskam family's daughter. While Eskam has been awarded multiple times during his 17 years of service with the Sheriff's Office, he is a father and husband first, and the impact of this loss is immeasurable."
While this couple was charged, a couple in Denver was not charged after the accidental, self-inflicted shooting death of their 3-year-old on April 29.
Nick Penzenstadler, a USA Today Investigative Reporter, is not surprised by these different outcomes.
In 2017, Penzenstadler worked on an investigative report about accidental child gun deaths across the country. Their investigation found justice is haphazard.
"It really depends on prior criminal history and the fact pattern," said Penzenstadler. "We also discovered this term 'suffering discount' because obviously, prosecutors know that these families are going through the worst days of their lives, so adding a criminal charge often doesn’t really accomplish anything, and they know that."
His investigation looked at race and socioeconomic factors, and found that didn't matter when charging parents. They found the only instance where prosecutors always charged were when parents were felons who were not supposed to possess guns at all.
“You could see grandparents get charged in one state and not charged in the next," he said. "You could see babysitters charged in one incident and not charged in the next. It’s really all over the map, down to where it happened and what happened."
Often, their reporting found the cases were so tough to call, that prosecutors would send them to a grand jury.
The summonses direct Elaine and Brett Eskam to appear in court on July 18. The couple was not arrested and so booking photos are not available.
Brett Eskam remains employed with the sheriff's office and is currently on bereavement leave, according to a spokesman for the sheriff's office.
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