1 month, 3 weeks ago
An Edgewater police officer is under investigation for accidentally discharging a rifle while answering what turned out to be a hoax call, a police official said.
Timothy Huggins, a 16-year veteran of the Edgewater Police Department, discharged his firearm as he and another officer were at a home in the city checking out reports of a hostage situation, Edgewater police Capt. Joe Mahoney said Tuesday.
And, Daniel Mease, 25, a Marine veteran who said he was at his father’s Kumquat Drive home visiting for Memorial Day, claims Huggins was careless and negligent with the handling of his firearm.
The incident has set in motion an internal affairs investigation to determine the circumstances that caused the firearm to discharge, Mahoney said.
“We want to make sure that this type of accident does not occur again,” Mahoney said.
The hostage call turned out to be a hoax, Mahoney said.
Edgewater police were dispatched to 1924 Kumquat Drive at 8:20 p.m. Monday after getting a call from Hillsborough County authorities saying that they had taken a call from a man — Robert James Ware — claiming to have a hostage at the Edgewater home, Mahoney said.
“Hillsborough County dispatchers were able to link the call to the home on Kumquat Drive and we sent our officers there to do a well-being check,” Mahoney said.
Turns out Ware, who had the Kumquat Drive home as a previous address, is in the Collier County jail, an Edgewater police report shows.
According to Volusia dispatchers, Hillsborough investigators believed the hostage call was a “spoof call” — one that displays a different number than the calling phone — but needed to have Edgewater police verify it.
Huggins was one of two officers sent to the home.
“(Huggins) had an accidental discharge of his AR-15,” Mahoney said. “The bullet went into the ground and it did not hit a home.”
The report states Huggins’ “finger was outside the trigger guard at the time of the accidental discharge.”
Mease, who said he was outside the home when the other officers arrived, claims Huggins and the other officer were about 5 feet behind him when the rifle fired.
“I told them there was no hostage situation at my father’s house,” Mease said. “I told them nothing was going on and that I had just walked out of my father’s home.”
Mease said Huggins pointed the AR-15 while the other officer aimed a Taser at him and asked him for identification. As Mease, who retired from the U.S. Marine Corps after a seven-month tour in Afghanistan, walked to his car to get his ID, followed by the officers, he heard the shot behind him, he said.
A report states Mease got belligerent when approached by the officers and got more agitated when the firearm discharged. Officers had to wrestle Mease to take away a 9-inch knife he had on his side, police said.
Now for the event post-mortem. Someone lied on the report. Huggins’ finger was not outside the trigger guard at the time of the negligent discharge. Guns don’t just go off. Someone has to pull the trigger. I suspect that he stumbled and had a sympathetic muscle reflex, causing him to squeeze the trigger. A person can be trained to overcome this sympathetic reaction (like my son during his pre-deployment workup as a SAW gunner), but this officer is a goofball, and few if any civilian police will ever be trained to such a level.
As for the knife, they only imagined that they “had to wrestle Mease to take away a 9-inch knife he had on his side.” They didn’t really have to do that. They just made that up. They could have decided to carry only their side arm, shake his hand, and ask how he was doing. Instead they decided to act like members of the local gang.
Finally, as I note every time I write about these events (and they happen on a daily basis in America), notice the lack of muzzle discipline. As one commenter of mine put so well, ”If you need to speak with the occupant, make an appointment.” They have no right to invade domiciles and point weapons at people. In this instance the police were played for idiots, and they decided to act the part.