Thursday, April 24, 2014
State police are inspecting a lieutenant's service weapon that fired accidentally during a training session in Augusta on Wednesday morning.
Col. Robert Williams, chief of the state police, said Lt. Shawn Currie was adjusting his holster when the gun went off during a computer training class. Nobody was injured.
"It doesn't seem right now, from the people in the room ... there was any misconduct. He wasn't playing with the gun," said Williams.
"He had an ache or a pain. ... He put his hand on his weapon to push it away from his body," Williams said. "It was in his holster. The trigger wasn't exposed."
The incident was reported and the gun was taken for analysis by the department's armory, Williams said.
The department will run a series of tests trying to re-create the conditions of the discharge to determine whether there is a problem with the weapon.
Contacted by telephone, Currie referred questions to Williams. Currie has been with the state police since 1994 and is in charge of the commercial vehicle enforcement unit.
Williams said that, based on his understanding of the incident, it is unlikely Currie that will be disciplined.
Currie's weapon is a newer-model .45-caliber H&K. It has an extra safety mechanism, not found on older models, that is designed to prevent accidental discharges, Williams said. The firing pin can make contact with the primer of a cartridge only if the trigger is pulled.
"We don't know of any other instances where this has happened," Williams said.
Currie was sitting beside an instructor, with a trooper behind them, at about 11 a.m. at 36 Hospital St., the address of the commercial vehicle unit, when the accident happened, Williams said.
They were training on new software for state police cruisers that gives troopers instant access to complaints drafted by dispatchers, Williams said.
Gun malfunctions that lead to accidental firings are exceptionally rare. However, Portland police became involved in a dispute over the Remington 700, which allegedly had numerous unintentional discharges.
In a training exercise in 2010, a rifle fired without anyone touching the trigger and the incident was videotaped by an officer on a cellphone.
In response, Portland's special reaction team stopped using the model.
Williams said state police will discuss Wednesday's incident with the manufacturer. "Probably the bigger reality is we'll never be able to explain it," he said.
The discharge is not considered a use of deadly force requiring an investigation by the Attorney General's Office because that statute requires an officer's intent to fire.
David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at: