The officer pulled the trigger while taking apart his .45-caliber handgun for cleaning but did not realize the gun was loaded, police said.
Our thoughts and prayers are with this trooper, and his family. A husband has lost his wife and child. Two children have lost their mother and an unborn sibling. That said, this didn’t have to happen. This is not an accident. It’s negligence on the trooper’s part and he’ll have to live with that for the rest of his life. No one who owns a gun wants to be in this position and it is preventable.
Even if he did everything else wrong, had he simply kept the gun pointed in a safe direction, we wouldn’t be reading about it. A safe direction can be defined as a direction in which a bullet launched from a firearm will cause no unintended personal or property damage. Again, no UNINTENDED personal or property damage. A guy breaking into your home at night need some personal damage so pointing a gun at him may in fact be the safest thing you can do at that moment. But this allegedly happened while the officer was “cleaning his gun.”
Assuming that’s what actually happened, here’s the process for those who don’t know. First, while keeping the gun pointed in a safe direction, REMOVE THE SOURCE OF AMMUNITION. That means, remove the magazine for semi-autos or open the cylinder and give the extractor a full stroke for your wheelgun folks. Single-action guys will need to turn the cylinder and press the extractor rod all the way through for each chamber. If you skip this step, will likely here a loud boom toward the end of this process. The very next step for semi-autos is to lock the slide open and check the chamber, breechface, and magazine well to be sure there’s no ammunition left in the gun. Again, with the gun pointed in a safe direction and only after completing the steps above, you can close the action, align the sights with something that will safely contain a bullet (i.e. file cabinet, old CRT monitor/TV, ceramic toilet) and press the trigger to the rear to relax all the springs. Then disassemble as directed per your owners’ manual.
Here’s something else guys, we’re all human. If you are tired/fatigued, get some rest. Maintenance is certainly important but, incidents like this highlight the fact we often get our processes confused when we’re tired and not thinking clearly. Weapon maintenance can wait if you’ve just worked a double!
And be aware of distractions. Chances are with two kids in the house and a pregnant wife all demanding Dad’s attention, the trooper may well have been distracted from the process of unloading/clearing the gun. As a cop, there’s a six in ten chance his service weapon is a Glock. So it is also possible that when he came back to the gun, without thinking, he picked it up and pulled the trigger to disassemble it. Folks, anytime a gun has been out of your your sight or you’ve been distracted from the process of handling that gun for even a brief moment, start the the unloading/clearing process again. Make sure you’ve removed the source of ammunition, opened and inspected the action, and never, ever, allow the muzzle to cover/cross anything you are not willing to kill or destroy.