LAWRENCEVILLE - Five months after the shooting death of Gwinnett County Sheriff's Department Lt. Don Bassett, the county's top prosecutor said he will not pursue criminal charges against Bassett's live-in fiancee.
Bassett, 38, died from a single gunshot to his abdomen in the early morning hours of April 30. The gun fired during a heated argument with his fiancee, Morgan Schrader, 20, who told investigators the shooting was accidental.
District Attorney Danny Porter said the summation of autopsy reports, forensic tests and witness statements did not disprove Schrader's claims that the couple was struggling for possession of the .40 caliber Glock when it fired.
Porter said a potential course of action would have been to charge Schrader with involuntary manslaughter, a misdemeanor, but even that stood a slim chance in court.
"There was no evidence that contradicted (her) story," Porter said. "I decided that we couldn't prevail at a criminal trial. Therefore, we didn't go forward."
The handgun that killed Bassett was issued by the Sheriff's Department but was not the weapon he used in daily service, Porter said. Schrader had resigned from the department a month prior to Bassett's death as a deputy when her superiors claimed she reeked of alcohol at work.
Schrader's parents did not return calls seeking comment Thursday. A
cell-phone number for Schrader listed in her personnel file has been disconnected.
Porter said he consulted Bassett's family before making a final decision. A 17-year department veteran, Bassett left behind four children from a previous marriage.
"They understood the problems with the case, and they understood the decisions I made," Porter said. "Like any family who loses a loved one, I can't say they were happy about it."
Gwinnett police conducted a weeks-long investigation and forwarded a report to Porter's office for review, leaving the filing of charges to his discretion.
In the wake of the shooting, neighbors in the couple's Alcovy Ridge subdivision recalled them as fun-loving and affable, often seen playing soccer with Bassett's children or drawing sidewalk pictures in chalk.