Did the Bangor, Maine police chief commit a crime? Is the getting away with it?

Did the Bangor Police Chief commit a crime?

Reckless conduct is defined by statute as the actor recklessly creates a substantial risk of serious bodily injury to another person.

The Chief is cleaning his new service weapon. To disassemble the weapon the trigger mechanism needs to be depressed. Depressing a trigger on a gun will cause what is in the chamber (typically a bullet) to discharge. The Chief did not check the chamber prior to depressing the trigger. There were four or five other officers in the room. The gun did discharges and the chief shot himself.

Did the chief recklessly create a substantial risk of serious bodily injury to another person? Serious bodily means a bodily injury which creates a substantial risk of death or which causes serious, permanent disfigurement or loss or substantial impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ, or extended convalescence necessary for recovery of physical health. Getting shot or discharging a gun with 4 or 5 other people in the area creates a risk of serious bodily injury in my humble opinion. Is there not a substantial risk of death? Is there not a substantial risk of serious, permanent disfigurement or loss or substantial impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ? Is there not the risk of extended convalescence necessary for recovery of physical health?

So, was the police chief reckless? Under Maine Law a person acts recklessly with respect to a result of the person’s conduct when the person consciously disregards a risk that the person’s conduct will cause such a result or a person acts recklessly with respect to attendant circumstances when the person consciously disregards a risk that such circumstances exist. The Chief admits that he was not focusing on what he was doing as he cleaned his gun. Reckless? And prior to pressing the trigger mechanism to disassembly the weapon the Chief failed to check the chamber. Reckless? Is not checking the chamber a conscious disregard of the risk of pressing the trigger mechanism (the weapon will discharge what is in the chamber when you press the triggering mechanism)?

Oh wait. But there is more for what recklessness means under Maine law – “for purposes of recklessness, the disregard of the risk, when viewed in light of the nature and purpose of the person’s conduct and the circumstances known to the person, must involve a gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a reasonable and prudent person would observe in the same situation.” Okay, the nature of purpose of the Chief’s was to clean his weapon. And let’s not forget the Chief admits is was a serious mistake not to check the chamber. Is it a gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a reasonable and prudent person would check the chamber before cleaning their gun? Is it a gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a reasonable and prudent person would check the chamber before pulling the trigger mechanism to disassemble their weapon if you do not check the chamber first? I suspect you could get firearm experts to argue both sides of the issue. However, do you think you can get any current law officer officer or even prosecutor to argue against it? Both the District Attorney and Attorney General’s office were notified and both declined to prosecute instead allowing the incident to be handled internally.

What if the police chief was unemployed living in subsides housing and in the apartment when this happened? No one is in the room he is in but the downstairs neighbor, who the chief did not see, is almost struck? I had a client prosecuted for this. The District Attorney’s office did not allow the Housing Authority to handle that internally.

Are we creating a double standard? Is it a crime? Does common sense require the State not to prosecute?

FROM THE BANGOR DAILY NEWS:
Bangor police chief admits ‘serious mistake’ led to accidentally shooting himself

Gabor Degre | BDN
Bangor Police Chief Mark Hathaway said that he made a very serious mistake, while cleaning his service weapon that resulted in shooting himself in the left hand. Hathaway said that gun was examined and was functioning properly, the firearm discharge was his fault. “I’m thankful no one else was injured.” he said.

By Nok-Noi Ricker, BDN Staff
Posted June 28, 2013, at 7:59 p.m.
Related stories
Bangor city manager’s report on accidental discharge of police chief’s gun

Gabor Degre | BDN
Bangor Police Chief Mark Hathaway (right) and firearm training officer Sgt. Bob Bishop. Hathaway said that he made a very serious mistake, while cleaning his service weapon that resulted in shooting himself in the left hand. “I’m thankful no one else was injured.” he said.
BANGOR, Maine — Police Chief Mark Hathaway said Friday that he made a very serious mistake while cleaning his new duty weapon that caused him to shoot himself in the left hand. The city manager agreed and has ordered Hathaway to undergo additional gun safety training.

“I was handling the firearm and I was not focusing on what I was doing and that is unacceptable,” Hathaway said while sitting in a training room at the Bangor Police Station with his left forearm and hand wrapped in a cast. “And this is the result.”

“I want the public to know we’re not making excuses,” Hathaway said. “It was without question my fault. I made a very serious mistake.”

Hathaway declined to describe Monday’s incident in detail.

An internal investigation into the shooting was conducted by Lt. Tim Reid, who leads the detective division, and was summarized in an interoffice memo issued Friday to Hathaway from City Manager Cathy Conlow.

“While there were several mitigating factors that were involved including heat and the fact that these new weapons require that the trigger be depressed in order to be disassembled, the final analysis is that [the] injury was the result of your failure to clear the chamber prior to disassembly,” Conlow wrote.

Conlow ordered Hathaway to undergo remedial training, to include reading, classroom and firearms handling, and is requiring written documentation that he completed the program.

The memorandum states that the Attorney General’s office and the District Attorney of Penobscot County were informed of the incident and both indicated it was appropriate to handle the matter internally.

Sgt. Bob Bishop, the department’s firearms training officer, was seated beside Hathaway Friday and said the incident spurred a review of departmental safety procedures already in place.

“I would like people who use or handle firearms to think about what I did,” Hathaway said, stressing gun safety. “We do not want this to happen to anybody else.”

The city’s new police chief, a 25-year veteran on the force, had just returned from weapons training in Brewer with his new duty weapon, a .45-caliber Glock handgun, when the incident occurred. Four or five officers were in the room when the gun went off, and they quickly rendered care.

“They put me on the ground and took off their shirts to wrap up my hand to stop the bleeding,” Hathaway said.

The fire department’s ambulance crew arrived in minutes and quickly took him to Eastern Maine Medical Center, he said.

“They took good care of me,” Hathaway said of his officers and emergency responders.

“I’m thankful nobody else was injured,” he also said.

The city received a Justice Assistance Grant from the federal government last fall that provided the $10,800 needed to purchase the new weapons, which were issued to all 82 sworn officers and replaced the .45-caliber Sig Sauers previously in use.

Bishop and his staff examined the firearm and it functions properly, Hathaway said, and the team also examined the entire weapons training program.

“In the aftermath of this, we put ourselves under a microscope,” Bishop said. He said everything from what is taught in the classroom to how the range is operated to cleaning weapons was reviewed.

“Everyone in the firearms instruction [team] met and discussed this,” Bishop said. “That discussion [is] going to produce changes. We’re striving for firearms excellence because the public expects us to be flawless.”

Bishop said Monday’s incident was the third accidental gun discharge within the department in the last quarter century, none of which occurred while officers were dealing with members of the public.

“That statistic is incredible,” Bishop said.

Hathaway, who was hired as chief in April at a salary of $85,893, said if he had followed the safety rules already in place, “we wouldn’t be here today.”

“I accept the criticism I received. It was well deserved,” Hathaway said.

Previous post:

Next post: