Father pleads not guilty in school gun case

CHULA VISTA - A convicted felon pleaded not guilty today to charges stemming from a campus gun scare involving his 14-year-old son, who brought his father's loaded gun to Hilltop High School in Chula Vista last week.

Zachariah Joseph Dow, 36, faces charges of felony child abuse, two counts of possession of a firearm by a felon and a charge of possession of ammunition by a felon. He faces eight years in state prison if convicted.

Deputy District Attorney Kristi Hein said outside court that Dow "does have a prior felony conviction that allows us to file charges," but wouldn't discuss specifics of that conviction.

Dow's criminal record includes at least one domestic violence conviction involving his ex-wife, according to 10News.

Defense attorney David Gutierrez told reporters Dow told him he used to work for the San Diego County Sheriff's Department, without being specific.

Gutierrez said that his client is "nervous, upset and embarrassed" that his son brought a loaded gun to school and that Dow "understands the severity of the situation."

Judge Patricia Garcia allowed Dow to remain free on his posted $100,000 bail. The judge ordered the defendant to turn in any other firearms by June 4, although Gutierrez said Dow doesn't have any other firearms.

Dow surrendered to Chula Vista police the night of May 21, about seven hours after the non-injury gun scare at his son's high school. An assistant principal at the Claire Avenue campus made an emergency call late that morning to report that several students had seen a ninth-grader displaying a handgun in class, police Lt. Fritz Reber said.

"They claimed the suspect student ... made statements indicating that the gun was loaded and that he could potentially use (it) to shoot someone at school," Reber said.

When officers went to the suspect's classroom and summoned him, he stood up and reached for his backpack, though not in "an aggressive way," the lieutenant said, and they rushed over and took him into custody without incident.

Inside the boy's bag was a loaded .44-caliber revolver, according to police.

Friends of the arrested boy told reporters he had been bullied at school.

The teen was booked into juvenile hall on suspicion of bringing a loaded firearm onto school grounds. Detectives later determined that the suspect's father owned the gun.

An unsecured .22 caliber pistol also was found under a mattress in the man's home, according to police.

Gutierrez said Dow lives with his two minor children as well as his fiancee and her two children. The judge ruled that the defendant could continue living with them.

10News also reported that the boy's mother, Castle Park High School graduate-turned-Penthouse model Chere Rhodes, committed suicide seven years ago. The self-inflicted gunshot wound death of the 30-year-old Rhodes made tabloid headlines because she was dating 70-year-old actor Max Baer Jr., who played Jethro Bodine on the "Beverly Hillbillies" TV show.

Dow will be back in court July 10 for a readiness conference and July 31 for a preliminary hearing.
 

Print this article Back to Top

Comments