By Ian Ferguson
Aaron Bornemann, a 23-year-old Bellingham resident, died of a gunshot wound to the head that is being investigated as an accidental death.
Bornemann was the son of Bellingham City Council member Terry Bornemann, who has served on the council for 16 years and recently announced he was running for re-election this year.
According to the Bellingham Police Department, officers and medics responded at about 11 p.m. April 2 to a residence in the 1200 block of Grant Street in Bellingham after residents at that address called 911. Bornemann had been shot with a handgun. He was transported immediately to PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center and was declared dead in the early morning hours of April 3.
As a result of interviews, investigators determined that Masen Jon Potter, a 21-year-old resident of the involved house on Grant Street, had fired the handgun that caused the death of Bornemann.
Potter told investigators that he and Bornemann are friends and had been hanging out together throughout the evening. It is unclear how the handgun came to be at Potter’s home, but the men had been handling the gun together and Potter, who has experience with firearms, said he thought the gun was unloaded. The men were engaging in horseplay when Potter grabbed the handgun, pointed it at Aaron’s head, and pulled the trigger.
Potter was arrested for manslaughter in the first degree, which occurs when a person recklessly causes the death of another person. Manslaughter in the first degree is a Class A felony. According to Washington state sentencing guidelines, a person with no prior convictions or offenses convicted of manslaughter in the first degree could serve a middle range of 90 months or 7.5 years in jail.
Bellingham mayor Kelli Linville and city staff expressed their support and sadness for the Bornemann family.
“We are terribly sad about Terry and Jennifer’s tragic loss, and we will do what needs to be done to support Terry, his family and the council during this difficult time,” Linville said.
The city council’s April 6 meeting was postponed out of respect for the Bornemann family.
“This is a horrible tragedy. Out of respect for Terry and his family, we are canceling Monday’s council meeting. Please pray for him and his family,” said council president Gene Knutsen.
Letters or gifts of condolence can be sent to the Bornemann family care of Marie Marchand at the city council office at 210 Lottie Street, Bellingham, WA, 98225 or firstname.lastname@example.org.