Man's gun discharges in cubicle at work, injures him
By Alex Branch
An employee of a Lake Worth insurance company was shot in both legs Tuesday morning when a handgun he brought to work discharged as he sat in his cubicle, Police Chief Brett McGuire said.McGuire also added:
There is no evidence that the 47-year-old man had intended to harm anyone with the weapon but rather "just felt the need to carry it," McGuire said.
"He wasn't having problems with his bosses or co-workers that we know of," McGuire said.
The incident occurred about 9:15 a.m. at Al Boenker Insurance, 6030 Lake Worth Blvd. After arriving at work, the man draped his jacket over the back of his chair, McGuire said. The .45-caliber automatic was in the left jacket pocket.
As the man got settled in his chair, the gun discharged, McGuire said.
The man was likely doing something to the weapon when it fired because "that particular weapon doesn't just sit there and go off," McGuire said.Luckily, no bystanders were hurt.
The bullet passed through the man's left leg and then his right leg and through the corner of a bookcase before lodging in the wall of a cubicle occupied by a startled female co-worker, McGuire said.With all of the recent firearm related news that are the hot topics of the blogosphere, why am I bringing up this old news about a negligent discharge? Well, because I met with the individual involved in this incident after work today over drinks at a local Starbucks.
The man was taken to a hospital, he said.
Lake Worth police have no record of the man being licensed to carry a concealed weapon, McGuire said. He also appears to have violated his company's policy against bringing guns to work -- licensed or not -- without company officials' permission.
Detectives will wait until the man has recovered from his injuries to determine whether to pursue charges, McGuire said.
The individual involved (JS) had emailed me with his version of the incident, and asked my opinion.
In explaining the incident, JS stated:
In Oct this particular morning it was cold as arrived at the office. I kept my Colt .45 in the left outside pocket of a heavy leather coat. I rarely ever wear this jacket and would not have put it on except it was a little cold that morning. I had had that gun in the pocket of that coat for over a month and just left it in the truck during work hours.There are several items which need to be discussed here, and I will get to them later.
Anyway, the one time I wear this coat into the building it has the gun in the pocket which I don't even feel so I go into my cubicle, start to remove my jacket, swing it behind my back to hang it on my chair, bam it goes off. I look around very stunned, no one is hurt, I can't figure out what happened, I'm looking around then I notice blood pouring down my right leg, then I notice blood pouring down my left leg. The bullet entered about 6 inches below my knee going in at about a 45 degree angle and broke the tibia, went through both calves, struck the concrete floor. No one was hurt thank God. The gun was still in the coat pocket and the case was still in the barrel. I told them I never had my hand on the gun and am sure I hit the trigger on the edge of the chair arm. Yes I know there is a thumb safety, I could have dragged something over the coat pocket that pulled the that safety off, but I don't remember cocking the gun. I really just don't remember carrying it that way.
A portion of my reply:
When you mention that you were carrying a "Colt 45", and a thumb safety, I assume you are talking about a 1911 style pistol. I don't see someone with a CHL carrying a .45LC single action revolver in a coat pocket.A couple more emails flew through AlGore's Web and we decided to meet for coffee.
JS, I hope you do not mind my being frank with you. I carry a 1911 style pistol as my primary sidearm. 1911's weigh 2 pounds or so with a full magazine. In my personal experience, it is very hard not to notice a 2 pound weight in my coat pocket. There is also the fact that 1911 style pistols have a grip safety. The grip safety needs to be deactivated before the trigger can be pulled. The 1911 pretty much has to be held to be fired. Now I can imagine a scenario where the grip safety was depressed by the fabric of the coat, but if the fabric were that tight, how was the trigger pulled?
JS is a gentleman who I would guess to be late 40's, and I could recognize him by his slight limp. We settled down in a quiet corner of the cafe and got to know each other a bit before we started talking about the discharge. One thing I learned that was wrong in the newspaper account was the fact that JS does in fact have a CHL. A large part of me is relieved that the paper got that fact wrong so as to not offer any fodder for the Antis to jump on.
JS is quite frank and upfront about the incident. He acted out what he was doing when the pistol discharged, and showed me the wounds. It turns out that the pistol was an early 70's Colt Commander with an aluminum frame, and he was using 230gr fmj ammunition. After looking at all four of his wounds, it is a very good thing he was not using HST's.
One thing that I was really interested in about this particular incident was finding out what, exactly, caused the pistol to discharge. As many of you know, a 1911 is a very safe firearm to carry. To discharge a 1911 style pistol you need to release the thumb safety, depress the grip safety, and pull the trigger. I just could not understand how the gun discharged without his hand being in the pocket. The location of the wounds pretty much shows that the gun was fired below his knees from an angle that he could not easily achieve while standing and removing his coat. I am pretty confident that he was not handling the pistol when it discharged. While we were talking through different possibilities I learned that the police found no pencil, pen or other object that could have pressed the trigger. While we were talking about firearm safety, JS mentioned how he safely got his pistol ready for carry. He always put his thumb on the face of the hammer while pulling the trigger to let the hammer down. That's when it hit me, he was carrying a 1911 with the hammer down on a live cartridge. His other pistols have a decock feature and he never thought that the 1911 did not. It is possible that he only lowered the hammer to the hammer stop, but in talking with him it appears that is not the case, the hammer was down on a live round. With spring pressure holding the hammer against the firing pin, it would not take much of a bump to cause a discharge. Even if the hammer was on the stop, that is a very dangerous means of carrying a 1911. The hammer stop is not a safety when it comes to methods of carry.
Update: Well, that's embarrassing. As George so tactfully reminded me in the comments section, hammer down on a 1911 is a routine condition of carry for quite a few folks. This condition of carry is commonly referred to as "Condition 2". I have been carrying "cocked and locked" (Condition 1) for so long that I guess this other means of carry slipped my mind. It appears that a bit more investigating is in order.
The purpose of commenting on this incident is to go over the lessons learned, not to beat up on JS. JS has lost his job, his health insurance and his ability to walk normally. He has been shot in both legs and has the possibility of being charged hanging over his head. He does not need me to be piling any more on that load, but there is a lot we can learn from this.
First, and probably foremost, is the fact that an individual needs to fully understand the operation of their firearm. JS had owned a sizable collection of firearms and seemed to know the operations of the ones we talked about. He did not know the operation of the firearm he had on that particular day. In our email conversation he mentioned that he may have fired that pistol 3 times in the last 10 years. That is not acceptable for a firearm that you are going to carry in public. One of the basics that I try to keep bringing up is the fact that if you are going to own a firearm, you are responsible for learning the safe and effective handling of that firearm. If you are going to carry that firearm in public, that responsibility is even greater.
Next is the method of carry. If you are going to carry a firearm in public, that firearm needs to be secure. A semi auto left in a coat pocket, in the back seat of a pickup truck, is not secure. As evidenced by four holes leaking blood, there are times when it is easy to be pointing that firearm where it should not be pointed.
There is more that can be pointed out, and I am sure that it will be in the comments, but this post is quite long enough. I just want to emphasize the fact that when we make the decision to carry a firearm in public, we accept the responsibility of safely carrying that firearm. The folks who interact with us as we go about our daily business should not be in any additional danger because we have a firearm concealed somewhere upon our body. Know your firearm, know it inside out and sideways, and carry it in a safe and effective manner.
One last comment from JS:
I'm not trying to get out of making a mistake but I'll never do it again in a million years. Well the one time I make a mistake I really did a good one. I'm so thankful no one else was hurt. If anyone out there needs a poster boy for what NOT to do I'm it.It takes a bit of something good to stand up and admit you screwed up and be willing to learn from your mistake. When the smoke blows over from all this I'll be spending a good deal of time out at the range with JS filling in the gaps and working on safe and effective handgun operation.