A teenager was hit by ricocheting shrapnel when a North Georgia sheriff’s gun discharged inside a Walmart.
Pickens County Sheriff Donnie Craig was wearing the gun in his waistband when it went off inside the Jasper store Tuesday night, according to the sheriff’s office. The round hit the floor.
Craig and several deputies were attending a “Shop with the Sheriff” holiday event and were standing near the front of the store during the “accidental discharge,” sheriff’s spokesman Capt. Kris Stancil told AJC.com. A 15-year-old boy in a nearby checkout line reported a minor injury, he said.
At the time, the teen told deputies he had not been hit and was OK. It wasn’t until later that he noticed a “small cut” that was barely recognizable as a wound from shrapnel, Stancil said.
The shrapnel that ricocheted was about the size of a pencil eraser, he said. The teen reported the injury to the sheriff’s office and went to a hospital for an X-ray.
“At the time of the discharge, the weapon was not being handled and the weapon was secured in the waistband,” the sheriff’s office said in a Facebook post. “Sheriff Craig has stated how thankful he is that no one was seriously injured in the incident. All policy protocols will be followed during the investigation into the incident.”
The gun was a “backup weapon,” the agency said. It is not clear what caused the weapon to fire.
“Currently this matter is being investigated by the Pickens Sheriff’s Office, and per proper protocol the Georgia Bureau of Investigation has been notified of the incident,” the post continued. “The Pickens Sheriff’s Office will fully cooperate with the investigation.”
The GBI is not investigating, agency spokeswoman Nelly Miles told AJC.com on Thursday.
Gun use has become a contentious issue with Walmart, whose CEO announced in September the big box chain would no longer sell certain types of ammunition. The decision followed a mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso that claimed 22 lives.
“It’s clear to us that the status quo is unacceptable,” Doug McMillion, president and CEO of Walmart, Inc., wrote in a lengthy letter to employees.
McMillion also made a request that Walmart customers no longer openly carry firearms in the stores in states where “open carry” is permitted, unless they are authorized law enforcement officers.
The Facebook post regarding Tuesday’s discharge in Jasper racked up hundreds of comments, and reaction has been mixed.
“I was there when it happened,” said top commenter Lenora Hancock Wilson. “The professionalism of these officers were outstanding. Each and every one of them. They handled it professionally. And kept everyone calm. The initial shock was brought down just by all of these officers. It was a freak accident. And could have been so much worse than it was. I have never in my life been so proud of our PCSO.”
Wilson said some shoppers barely noticed when the gunshot rang out. Other commenters said they were scared for their lives.
“Thank God everyone is OK,” commenter Charlie Donovan said. “Maybe it was a gun/manufacturer defect, but I call negligent discharge. Somebody not wearing a badge would be in handcuffs if something like this was to occur. Then they'd have to go to court and prove innocence, etc. Sounds like somebody needs some more range hours. Being law enforcement, this is pretty unacceptable.”
— Staff writer Asia Simone Burns contributed to this article.
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