Updated 12/3/13: here
Update 11/21/13: The Sun has asked for a copy of the investigation by 4:30pm today. The Letter is here.
Update 11/19/13: Chief Cash’s letter to the Editor concerning the events that this story covers is available here.
Campus Police Chief Michael Cash has been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation of an incident at police headquarters where a gun Cash was holding discharged and a bullet narrowly missed hitting a SWCPD clerk.
College officials have released very little information about the incident, but several sources have informed The Sun that the firing of the police handgun was part of what one described as a “scary and dangerous” situation.
Sources said Cash entered the SWCPD offices and removed his district-issued service weapon from its holster for reasons unknown and the weapon discharged. A single shot penetrated the wall, narrowly missed campus police clerk Grace David and lodged itself into an adjacent wall in the campus police reception area. Sources said it was unclear whether Cash fired the weapon intentionally or whether it was an accidental discharge.
Following the incident, sources said, Cash “had to be talked down” by SWCPD officers. Cash then surrendered the gun and collapsed to the ground, sources said, demonstrating “shock-like symptoms” and was taken away in an ambulance to a nearby hospital for evaluation. He was subsequently released.
David has been placed on medical leave and has not returned to work since the incident. SWCPD Sergeant Robert Sanchez was named acting chief while an investigation is being conducted.
Sources said the college originally planed to ask the Chula Vista Police Department to investigate the discharge, but CVPD spokesperson Captain Gary Wedge said the college has not requested CVPD assistance. Lillian Leopold, SWC Chief Public Infrmation and Government Relations Officer, said the college has asked the law firm of Liebert, Cassidy, Whitmore to conduct the investigation.
Leopold said college officials are not able to discuss the incident while the investigation is pending.
“We want to make sure that there is a thorugh investigation and that both the campus community, and any personnel matter involved with it, are looked at as thoroughly as possible to ensure that there is no attempt to hide any information. Once the investigation is over, it will depend on what we can and cannot release (due to privacy issues.)”
Some college employees, however, expressed frustration that a dangerous incident has been dealt with so quietly and without sharing information with the public. A number of college employees said they have been ordered not to discuss the episode.
“We literally dodged a bullet on this,” said a source that asked not to be identified. “We are very lucky no one was hit by gunfire that day. That was a very serious situation.”
A number of sources said that they felt it was important that a full accounting of the events that preceded and followed the shooting be made public. Sources also said that the event was “highly irregular” as district policy stipulates that weapons are to remain holstered when in an officer’s possession, except in the case of a threat.
“Police at all levels are carefully trained about gun safety,” said a source who asked not to be identified. “That’s like the first lesson on the first day of police academy. For an officer to discharge a weapon, that’s bad news.”
SWC campus police officers carry .40-caliber Glock handguns issued by the college. Glock handguns contain the “Safe Action” system, a fully-automatic safety system consisting of three passive, independently operating, mechanical safeties, which sequentially disengage when the trigger is pulled and automatically reengage when the trigger is released, according to information provided by the Glock Corporation. A Glock’s safety serves as a “drop safety” to discourage accidental discharge.
“To make a Glock fire you pretty much have to pull the trigger,” said a law enforcement professional who asked not to be identified. “I mean, guns are dangerous and things can go wrong, but we are trained to make sure things don’t go wrong.”