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San Juan Island man pleads no contest, faces at least five years in prison for shooting his girlfriend

A San Juan Island man faces at least five years in prison after pleading no contest two weeks ago to allegations he acted recklessly when he shot his live-in girlfriend in the chest with a .40-caliber handgun.

On July 13, Douglas Curnow, 36, pleaded no contest in San Juan County Superior Court to first-degree assault with a deadly weapon, a Class A felony; and to second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm, a Class C felony.

Curnow has been in Island County Jail awaiting trial since his arrest in mid-February — bail was set at $100,000 — and he is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 14.

By pleading no contest, also known as an Alford plea, Curnow does not admit he's guilty of either felony, but that he would likely be convicted based on evidence that would be presented at trial. A no-contest plea does not prevent a defendant from being sentenced as if he or she had been convicted.

According to court documents, Curnow, at the time of his arrest, told deputies the couple had been "playing around" with a handgun at their Lillan Lane home late in the evening and that he didn't know it was loaded. He claimed that twice he pointed the gun at his girlfriend and that each time she told him to "bring it."

The first time he pulled the trigger nothing happen, but the gun fired the second time and a bullet struck the girlfriend just above the sternum and exited through a shoulder.

Deputies and paramedics arrived at the home shortly after Curnow called 9-1-1 saying that he had accidentally shot his girlfriend. One spent casing was found in the dining room but, according to court document, officers found no sign of a struggle or altercation.

At the time of the shooting, Curnow was prohibited from possessing a weapon, the result of a pair of felony theft convictions dating back 13 years. He was acquitted by a jury of misdemeanor assault in 2003.

Two other handguns, in addition to the .40-caliber revolver involved in the shooting, and assorted ammunition, were found in the home, according to court documents.

In an earlier interview, Sheriff Bill Cumming said a preliminary investigation at the scene indicated the shooting was caused by "reckless behavior" and that Curnow was arrested and charged with assault with a deadly weapon as a result.

First-degree assault with a deadly weapon carries maximum penalties of life in prison, a $50,000 fine, or both. State law also demands a minimum of five years in prison.

According to court documents, prosecutors will recommend Curnow serve 10 years in prison, including the mandatory minimum, and that he pay $1,650 in fines and fees, and serve up to four years probation following his release.

The woman who suffered the near fatal wound has since recovered. Identified in court documents as Lisa Barry of Friday Harbor, she was treated at the scene and then flown by the U.S. Coast Guard to a Seattle hospital, where she underwent surgery the following day.

Barry, who declined to comment on the case until after a sentence is handed down, credits local paramedics for saving her life with the treatment they provided at the scene.

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