On Dec. 14, 2022, at about 7:36 p.m., Humboldt County Sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to a residence on Van Ness Avenue near Ferndale for the report of an unintentional shooting.
At the residence, deputies located an adult female victim with a gunshot wound to the arm. The victim was transported to a local hospital and is expected to survive her injuries. Also at the residence, deputies contacted 39-year-old James Jay Labranche. Labranche told deputies that he was handling a firearm, which he believed was unloaded, when the firearm discharged. Upon further investigation, Labranche was found to have a court order restricting his possession of firearms.
Labranche was arrested and booked into the Humboldt County Correctional Facility on charges of violation of a domestic violence court order (PC 273.6(a)) and prohibited person in possession of a firearm (PC 29825(a)).
This year the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office has responded to eight unintentional shooting incidents. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, each year nearly 500 people die from unintentional firearm injuries in the United States — more than one person every single day. Residents are encouraged to follow these eight basic gun safety rules when around or using firearms:
- Treat all guns as if they are loaded. Always assume that a gun is loaded even if you think it is unloaded.
- Keep the gun pointed in the safest possible direction. Always be aware of where a gun is pointing. A "safe direction" is one where an accidental discharge of the gun will not cause injury or damage. Never point a gun toward yourself or another person.
- Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot. Always keep your finger off the trigger and outside the trigger guard until you are ready to shoot.
- Store your gun safely and securely to prevent unauthorized use. Guns and ammunition should be stored separately. Use a California-approved firearms safety device on the gun, such as a trigger lock or cable lock, so it cannot be fired. Store it unloaded in a locked container, such as a California-approved lock box or a gun safe. Store your gun in a different location than the ammunition.
- Know how to properly operate your gun.
- Know your target, its surroundings and beyond. Check that the areas in front of and behind your target are safe before shooting.
- Never handle a gun when you are in an emotional state such as anger or depression. Your judgment may be impaired.
- Never shoot a gun in celebration (the Fourth of July or New Year's Eve, for example). A bullet fired into the air will return to the ground with enough speed to cause injury or death.
Learn more about firearm safety at: https://oag.ca.gov/firearms/tips
Anyone with information about this case or related criminal activity is encouraged to call the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office at (707) 445-7251 or the Sheriff’s Office Crime Tip line at (707) 268-2539.
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James Jay Labranche Booking Photo | Humboldt County Correctional Facility