The father of a 4-year-old boy who brought a loaded gun to a Hallowell day care center in April has been charged with reckless conduct, a misdemeanor charge.

Kennebec County District Attorney Maeghan Maloney said Wednesday that Adam J. Keene, 31, of Madison, has been served with a summons to appear in court.

On April 23, a worker at Rollins Family Child Care Center in Hallowell found a loaded .380 caliber semi-automatic handgun in the boy’s backpack.

“All weapons are toys to children, so parents have to take care of them,” Maloney said. “By failing to keep control of his weapon, Mr. Keene acted in a reckless manner that could have ended in tragedy, not only for his family, but for an entire daycare. That’s why I decided to bring the charge.”

The charge alleges that Keene, who works as a dispatcher for the Somerset County Communications Center, “did recklessly create a substantial risk of serious bodily injury” to the boy.

“It’s more that he misplaced his weapon and didn’t know where it was,” Maloney said. “Misplacing it in his son’s daycare bag is reckless. I’m convinced it was not intentional — that’s why it’s not a felony.”

The gun was removed from the premises, and Hallowell police were called. Hallowell Police Chief Eric Nason said at the time that the gun’s safety was on, but a round was in the chamber.

Philip Mohlar, Keene’s attorney, said his client is upset about what happened.

“He does not know how it ended up in the bag,” Mohlar said. “He was very upset obviously, and horrified, to think of what could have happened and is grateful that nothing did.”

Later that day, the boy’s mother, Heidi Lynn Johnson, of Hallowell, alleged in an affidavit seeking a protection from abuse order in Augusta District Court that “the gun was brought in the bag to day care on at least three occasions. It was available to my son for six days as he had access to the day care bag.”

The boy uses the travel bag to carry belongings between the homes of his parents.

She also indicated that Keene “kept a loaded gun in the house and pointed it at the family dog threatening to kill him.”

Johnson said after telling Keene that the gun was found in the bag at day care, she asked why he was not using the gun safe she bought for him, but received no response.

Johnson got a temporary protection order, but two weeks later successfully requested the court dismiss both her complaint and the temporary order. In asking for the dismissal, she said the district attorney’s office and the child protective services department were investigating the incident.

The termination of that order on May 9 meant Keene could possess firearms again.

Mohlar said Keene contacted police about his missing gun several days before it was discovered in the backpack.

Nason said previously that Skowhegan police were notified of the missing gun about 10 p.m. April 18.

“I haven’t had a chance to look at the police reports yet, and we are looking at how to handle the criminal part,” Mohlar said. “I’m not convinced that his actions constituted a crime. Just because we have a scary situation, doesn’t mean a crime was committed.”

In Johnson’s request for the protection order, she wrote that Keene told her “he had the gun in his truck and put the gun in my son’s backpack when he got out of the truck.”

Maloney said from what police and prosecutors can determine, and from what Keene could remember, “he was bringing the gun into the house and thinking he’d remember to take it out once he got in.

“It was not a conscious act, but it was a reckless act,” she said. “You have to be aware at all times what you’re doing with a deadly weapon.”

Maloney said she was willing to meet with parents at the day care if they want to discuss the situation.

Maloney said Keene has no prior criminal record and that she received a report on the family from an investigator with the Department of Health & Human Services that didn’t raise any additional red flags.

Keene is scheduled for a hearing on the charge in August in Augusta District Court.

Maloney also said she would look for a final resolution “where the father and other day care parents can talk about what happened and why it was so upsetting to the parents and to have Mr. Keene explain what happened.”

People answering the phone at the day care center on Wednesday afternoon said business owner Elizabeth Rollins was unavailable. She has previously said she would not comment on the case, citing concern for the children.

Betty Adams — 621-5631
badams@centralmaine.com