BOISE – A Gooding County Sheriff’s deputy shot accidentally by another deputy at his home is back at work after four weeks recuperation.
Deputy Jeremy Smith, who returned to work Monday, was shot in the hand Aug. 31 by a .22 caliber Ruger Mark IV handgun at the Hagerman home of Sgt. Dave Kiger, the agency’s armorer. Kiger was cleaning the weapon when it apparently misfired.
The incident in this southern Idaho county of about 14,200 residents didn’t become public until this week, in part because no formal law enforcement report was filed and no other Idaho agency was called to assist the investigation.
An official at Idaho’s law enforcement academy said enlisting another police organization to help with an accidental shooting probe involving two officers could be appropriate, but said that such decisions are left to local agencies.
Smith returned to work Monday, Gooding County Sheriff Shaun Gough told the Associated Press. Gough said there was an internal investigation that determined there was no criminal intent. An injury report was submitted to Gooding County, so Smith could receive worker’s compensation payments while he missed work.
“The firearm was excessively dirty, causing the extractor, the part that grabs the chambered round and removes it from the gun, to malfunction and not remove the round,” Gough said Tuesday. “What we did find was some procedural errors on the part of both deputies by not visually checking the chamber to make sure that the gun was unloaded.”
Gough said he didn’t see the need to file a formal report about the incident.
“It’s not necessary,” he said. “I’ve seen it a hundred times, when somebody accidentally discharges a gun into their foot or something.”
Steven Raschke, interim head of the Idaho Peace Officers Standards and Training Academy in Meridian, said there’s no statewide protocol on how best to report or scrutinize accidental shootings involving peace officers.
“The recommendation would be, to have a policy in place on what happens in the event of an accidental discharge,” Raschke said. “If we were asked by another agency to take a look at circumstances surrounding an accidental discharge, we might investigate that as a disinterested third party.”
Having another group scrutinize the situation could result in recommendations on how to improve safety and prevent repeat occurrences, Raschke said.
Smith was on duty and in uniform at the time of the incident, Gough said.
Kiger wasn’t, but was cleaning some of the agency’s weapons inside his home shop. Smith arrived and they decided to work on the Ruger, which is used in training to help officers improve their “trigger pull technique” because its .22 caliber ammunition is cheaper than that used in larger .40 caliber service handguns, Gough said.
“Deputy Smith removed the magazine from the pistol, and he manually worked the action by his account three times to make sure the weapon was safe,” Gough said. “He then handed to gun to Sgt. Kiger to dismantle. Sgt. Kiger began to dismantle the firearm and it accidentally discharged, striking Deputy Smith in the hand.”
Gough said he planned to ship the gun to its manufacturer, Sturm, Ruger & Co., Inc., for analysis, though he hadn’t done so by Tuesday.
Smith and Kiger declined to comment Wednesday.
An attempt to obtain the Gooding County accident report filed by Smith was unsuccessful. Leslie Renner, the Gooding County deputy clerk, denied a public records request, saying the county attorney advised her such information was confidential.