SWAT Commander Has Accidental Discharge At Town Hall

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 7 months ago

News from Tennessee:

An accidental police gunshot into lobby carpet at Town Hall startled officials attending a Town Council workshop Thursday night.

No one was injured after the weapon of Lt. Earl Barnes, the SWAT team commander, discharged after he tied his shoes in a chair in a lobby area. Doors were open next to the meeting room while his boss, Police Chief Kevin Arnold, was explaining upcoming training for his records office to elected officials.

“When it first happened, I thought it was one of these light bulbs (in the ceiling) that burst,” Arnold said during an interview Friday in the same meeting room.

After hearing the gunshot, the chief moved quickly from his seat in the meeting room that was closest to the door, reached for his holster and even thought it was possible an intruder had sneaked through the back door of Town Hall and shot Barnes.

“My main concern was not only him but ‘do we have a situation developing here,'” said the chief, who was relieved to see the lieutenant who usually provides security detail for Town Council meetings was unharmed. “Police officers are trained to go to the threat. It was very brief. He said, ‘I had an accidental discharge.'”

The kind of “accidental discharge” he had was preventable (well, I guess they all are).  Seriously though, they did have quite the “situation developing here.”  The chief pulled the trigger of his weapon in the wrong place at the wrong time.  But it gets even worse and weirder.

Lt. Barnes asked if he could go home after the incident, and the chief agreed.

“He was very embarrassed,” said Arnold, who estimated that Barnes has served with Smyrna Police for more than 25 years. “He’s an outstanding officer, but unfortunately, he made a mistake.”

The chief said Barnes will face discipline to be determined after Arnold discusses the gun discharge with Human Resources staff and Town Manager Harry Gill.

“It will usually be several days of suspension without pay,” Arnold said. “We are very lucky Lt. Barnes wasn’t injured. We’re very lucky that no citizens were injured, and no members of staff and no members of council were injured.”

Barnes made two mistakes, the chief said. One included Barnes failing to snap his holster to ensure the weapon would remain in place after he had used his pistol as part of a felony traffic stop to arrest a man accused of armed robbery of a gas station/convenience store at 33 N. Lowry.

“What we think happened is he didn’t snap it down enough in place,” Arnold said.

The other mistake came after Barnes sat down to tie his shoes and then reached for his gun when the pistol fell out of his holster.

Yea, I’ll bet he wanted to go home.  Listen to me very carefully so that you don’t act like the man in the article.  If your gun is falling and you have a round chambered, do not ever try to catch it.  Ever.  Ever.  I’ll leave it to the readers to explain why in the context of grip safeties, trigger brush guards, etc.

“We train our officers several times a year in using these weapons,” said Arnold, adding that his officers are expected to be armed and ready to shoot. “Unfortunately, we’re in the line of work where we have to carry weapons.”

Arnold said Barnes did what would be human nature to reach for something that was falling and forgetting the training to let the gun drop to the ground.

“Unfortunately, he made the mistake, and we are held accountable for our actions,” the chief said. “I have accidentally dropped mine at home. I cringed. It didn’t go off.”

A 25-year officer with Smyrna who has been chief for eight years, Arnold said his department has had four or five incidents involving officer guns firing by mistake. Only one of those in 1998 involved an injury to Officer Muhammad Ali (formerly known as Robert Ladell Haynes).

“He almost died,” Arnold said.

My God.  It looks like this department needs to be rid of their weapons before someone gets hurt even worse.  At least the (nearly lethal) negligent discharge didn’t happen to an artist formerly known as Prince.  Then I might think they were making this whole thing up.  It almost looks like that anyway.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks


  1. On March 1, 2015 at 10:36 pm, Milton said:

    Thanks for sharing the story. Actually, however, it took place in Tennessee, not Georgia. The DNJ is a Murfreesboro, Tennessee, paper.

  2. On March 1, 2015 at 10:56 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    Post corrected. Thank you for the editorial work.

  3. On March 2, 2015 at 5:57 am, Crusty Rusty said:

    He will probably receive more punishment than if he had shot Grandma in a wrong-house drug raid…

  4. On March 2, 2015 at 9:41 am, UNCLEELMO said:

    I believe the punishment for shooting Grandma is a period of time on paid administrative leave. Or as I like to refer to it, paid vacation.

  5. On March 2, 2015 at 8:08 am, Neal Jensen said:

    When this is what qualifies as professional, you know your society is well and truly f*cked….

  6. On March 2, 2015 at 8:11 am, MattBracken said:

    Let me guess, it’s a perfect gun that starts with G.
    Where the only safety is on the trigger, like putting the brake on the gas pedal.
    Not much different than a 1911 with the safeties disabled. Just sayin…

  7. On March 2, 2015 at 11:24 am, Backwoods Engineer said:

    Matt, I’m kind of shocked you’re not a Glock fan. In Castigo Cay, the Dan Kilmer character talks about how great Glocks are all the time. Maybe you’re saying the cops, most of whom don’t practice with their weapons but once a year, should have a gun with a safety?

  8. On March 2, 2015 at 11:38 am, MattBracken said:

    Oh sure, I’m a Glock fan, but they are very unforgiving of human error. Since you and I never make a single human error, Glock Perfection is perfect for us. But for mere mortals….just kidding. As far as the books, Dan uses a Glock as he explains it because they are universally available etc. Actually he uses them because then I don’t need to describe why a Sig or HK etc is better. Everybody, gunnies and non-gunnies, is comfortable making a mental image when they read Glock. “Get rid of that nickel plated sissy gun and get yourself a Glock,” everybody “gets” that. It’s a shortcut for a writer. Personally, I like Xds better, the grip safety is one factor.

  9. On March 2, 2015 at 4:46 pm, Michael said:

    My Glock 19 has a Cominolli safety installed on it.

    While there are those who will moan and suffer much gnashing of teeth at the thought, I consider it a great improvement. Maybe this PD should consider installing them.

  10. On March 2, 2015 at 5:30 pm, MattBracken said:

    I think Glock painted themselves in a corner with their early slogan “Glock perfection.” You can’t revamp them to the extent of adding another safety if it’s already perfect. Xds did not suffer from this slogan-problem, and built theirs with a grip safety.

  11. On March 2, 2015 at 8:25 pm, Anonymous said:

    I own an XD45 with the manual safety. I wish they’d make it available on the other calibers.

    …why do I want a manual safety, someone’s asking? Because I’m an old fart who started out with handguns with a Ruger Mk II, a Browning Hi-Power, and a 1911. I’m used to there being a safety there on the frame. I use it as a thumbrest and it allows me to get a higher grip on the gun, which helps control recoil. Lately I’ve been thinking about a full-size sidearm in .40, and I may just end up getting an FNS or an M&P with the safety–much though I love the trigger on the Walther PPQ, it ain’t got no manual safety.

  12. On March 2, 2015 at 5:12 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    I’ll take my XDm over a Glock any day. Good choice.

  13. On March 2, 2015 at 5:31 pm, MattBracken said:

    They ain’t pretty but they work. I especially like the cocked-striker indicator that you can see and feel even with the pistol in a holster.

  14. On March 2, 2015 at 6:16 pm, jsffly said:

    No gun is safe around someone that isn’t safe, no matter how many safeties are on the gun. Put a skirt on this Lt. and call him a meter maid.

  15. On April 11, 2015 at 3:31 pm, zeus234 said:

    If that’s all the time they find to practice, maybe they shouldn’t have a gun period.
    I find time 3-4 times a year and it’s quite a drive. Fell out?

  16. On March 2, 2015 at 8:50 am, Ned Weatherby said:

    Four or five “incidents” er, negligent discharges? Officer firing guns by mistake?

    How many is it, really? The last paragraph pretty much nailed it.

  17. On March 2, 2015 at 9:32 am, UNCLEELMO said:

    “…one of those [negligent discharges]… involved an injury to Officer Muhammad Ali.”

    All I can say is I’m glad I don’t live in Smyrna Tennessee.

  18. On March 2, 2015 at 11:11 am, MamaLiberty said:

    I’ve carried a gun for a very long time. Never had one “fall out” of a holster. Never had an ND, so far… A retention strap is either snapped or not… no gray zone there. If it did fall out of the holster. I suspect the gun didn’t FIT the holster. I could stand on my head and my gun could not “fall out.”

    But you’d think anyone with that much time carrying a gun would have the “let it drop” thing down pat. Makes you wonder if he actually trains with it, or if it’s just decoration.

    But it had nothing to do with the presence or absence of a “safety” on the gun. Tthe revolver I carried for a long time has no “safety” except the one between my ears. No mechanical lever can replace it. The gun doesn’t really matter all that much… it’s the nut behind it…

  19. On March 3, 2015 at 11:02 am, Ned Weatherby said:

    Yeah – I just hate it when my gun simply “falls out” of the holster…

  20. On March 2, 2015 at 1:15 pm, MissAnthropy said:

    Isn’t it so very encouraging to know that every one stoplight town in America has its own SWAT team now?

  21. On March 2, 2015 at 1:50 pm, Mrs. Patriot said:

    With a chief who thinks it’s “unfortunate” that they have to carry weapons in their line of work, no wonder they’re unqualified.

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This article is filed under the category(s) Guns,Police and was published March 1st, 2015 by Herschel Smith.

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