Off-Duty Officer Breaks Three Unwritten Gun Handling Rules Before Shooting Himself

By Rick Ector

Negligent discharge by an off-duty officer.
Off-Duty KY officer in an elevator moments before he shot himself with a negligent discharge.
Legally Armed In Detroit
Legally Armed In Detroit

Detroit, Michigan – -( This past Friday, an off-duty KY police officer in an elevator eventually found himself as the subject of the latest gun story to go viral over the Internet. According to a report over at the Huffington Post, he allegedly caused an unintended discharge of his department issued .40 caliber semiautomatic pistol in which a bullet ricocheted inside the elevator and struck himself with a non life threatening injury to his stomach.

The incident has garnered a ton of media attention, especially in the gun community, because it involved a law enforcement officer. A pet position of some gun control advocates is that only members of the police force and the military should be allowed to possess guns because they are perceived to have more firearms training than the average citizen. However, as this story clearly illustrates, any person who fails to exercise due caution and care with a firearm can cause a negligent discharge. By default, it is clear that the officer violated some fundamental tenets of firearm safety.

The National Rifle Association’s (NRA) Three Safe Gun Handling Rules are the following:

  • Always Keep Your Firearm Pointed In A Safe Direction
  • Always Keep Your Finger Off The Trigger Until Ready To Shoot
  • Always Keep Your Firearm Unloaded Until Ready For Use

A simple viewing of the video footage from a camera within the elevator appears to show the officer holding a package in his left hand while unholstering and subsequently trying to re-holster or conceal the firearm with his right hand. While he was attempting to conceal his firearm, he caused a negligent discharge. Apparently, he had first entertained the thought of hand carrying his gun to his car from the elevator and abruptly changed his mind.

The officer clearly violated two of the aforementioned NRA safe gun handling rules, as no direction in the tightly confined space inside the elevator was a “safe” direction and he failed to keep his finger off the trigger as he tried to conceal his gun. Had the officer only violated one of the rules, he would not have caused a negligent discharge. In the former case, he would not have drawn his gun in the first place. In the latter case, he would have kept his finger off the trigger of his drawn firearm.

Maybe if this officer had known of my three personal but unwritten rules of gun handling, he would not have caused a negligent discharge:

  • Never Handle A Firearm Unless You Have A Good Reason.
  • When Handling A Firearm, Give It Your Full Attention.
  • Never Attempt To Catch A Falling Firearm.

If the officer had obeyed my first unwritten rule, he would have assessed whether it was a good idea to unholster his firearm within the small confines of an elevator. A little forethought could have seen him delay his decision to handle his gun until after exiting the elevator. After all, he could have caused an innocent person seeking to enter the elevator to have quite a scare at the sight of a gun being pointed at him. In the end, the officer probably second-guessed himself as feeling unduly paranoid for perceiving the need to hand carry his gun to his vehicle. Hence, he tried to quickly conceal it.

In addition, if the police officer had obeyed my second unwritten rule he would have given the task of handling the firearm his full and undivided attention. Instead of handling his gun with only one hand, he could have used both hands, if necessary. He could have either put the box that was in his left hand on the floor of the elevator or he could have given the box to his wife. A sense of over-confidence in his firearm handling skills was probably the factor that led to him insisting on only using one hand. A negligent discharge is the only proof I need to assert his gun handling ability is suspect.

Moreover, if the police officer had obeyed my third unwritten rule he would not have attempted to catch his firearm after he mishandled it. He should have let it hit the floor of the elevator. Modern firearms do not discharge when dropped. However, they may acquire cosmetic damage in the form of scratches or a front sight being knocked off the slide. Neither of which is worse than negligently pulling the trigger while trying to catch a falling gun.

We should treat this reported incident as a sobering reminder of the responsibility that is required of all persons – officers or not – while carrying and handling firearms. A negligent mishap can occur at any time someone fails to give firearms the due caution and attention they deserve. Carry your firearm every day but carry it both safely and responsibly.

About The Author

Rick Ector is a National Rifle Association credentialed Firearms Trainer, who provides Michigan CCW Class training in Detroit for students at his firearms school – Rick’s Firearm Academy of Detroit.

Ector is a recognized expert in firearm safety, a gun rights keynote speaker, and has been featured extensively in the national and local media: Associated Press, NRAnews, Gun Digest, The Politics Daily, Fox News Detroit, The Detroit News, Lock-N-Load Radio, WGPR and the UrbanShooterPodcast.

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John Sommers

I was shot in the arm with a 9mm by a person who has handled and carried a firearm for years, it was truly an accidental discharge, and I understand that accidents happen, but they “Don’t have to happen” – if EVERYONE practiced SAFETY FIRST.


hi res video you can see the round as it was fired, at 00:39

almost hit the lady who is his wife according to the reports.

Glad he did not kill himself or the lady.

Harry Goodhorne

I’ll bet it was a Glock.


As a retired LEO I’m in a better position to ask this question than most because I probably won’t be labeled anti-police; Will he be subjected to the same legal consequences as anyone else? If not why not? Just because he’s a police officer should not give him a free pass to do something blatantly illegal and unsafe that a regular citizen would face serious legal consequences for doing.


Most folks like to thing that LEOs know a lot about firearms and shooting–trust me, they do not. Most will never fire or even handle their guns for practice or training unless the PD is buying the ammo for yearly qualification.

Dann Nelson

Put the pie down!

Jamie Clemons

P.S. he may have a reason to keep it loaded as a police he may not have time to load the weapon in a life or death situation.

Jamie Clemons

Looks like he was showing off for some woman. People like police who handle guns all the time can get complacent that is dangerous. Don’t get complacent. Even if you point the gun in a safe direction it can ricochet.


Arizona Department of Public Safety (AZDPS) added a fifth firearms safety rule to Colonel Jeff Cooper’s list of four:
5. Always be responsible for the whereabouts of your firearm (this because of FAs being left where unauthorized hands, including those of children, may have access).

I agree that the 3 rules stated by the NRA suck…but these are OK for children getting started.


And the million dollar question , safety on? May not have a safety , my carry pistol doesn’t but extra vigilance is required. When in doubt drop the mag , clear the chamber , start over with your handling.
Has he been charged with MCL 752.862 , MCL 752.861? You know any law abiding citizen would be . Why should he not be just because he’s a cop.


That’s a great question and you are correct he should be charged. They should be held to a much higher standard. They carry a weapon around and the percentage of them getting into a gunfight is much higher than the average Joe. So I know I’d want the cops around my are to be finally tuned killing machines if necessary!

Abraham Collins

The rules that you and the NRA preach suck. These are the real rules:

1. All firearms are to be treated as though loaded.
2. Keep your finger (and all other objects) out of the trigger guard until you have acquired your target.
3. Never point your firearm at anything that you aren’t willing to destroy.
4. Be certain of what your target is and what lies beyond it.

Rowland Gray

What I want to know is what is he doing with it out of the holster in and elavator I don’t see any bad guys ? Get real I don’t even in my house take my weapon out and show anyone.. For that matter any of my guns, long arms as well. Thats just when things can happen distracted etc. and boom. No he shouldn’t even have it out ! Bottom line not a safe practice.

Bob Hoffman

Sir–are YOU a “certified” instructor? If SO, where did you GET it? (certification)