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Young girl shot in leg with Spokane police gun

UPDATED: Tue., April 10, 2012, 5:03 p.m.

Spokane Police Officer Barry O'Connell. (File )
Spokane Police Officer Barry O'Connell. (File )

A Spokane police officer’s daughter shot herself in the leg with her dad’s duty weapon at the family home on Easter, city and county law enforcement officials said Tuesday.

The 10-year-old was in stable condition at the hospital and was expected to be sent home as soon as Tuesday night authorities said. Officer Barry O’Connell is taking time off to care for his daughter, but police officials said when he returns to work he will be reassigned to desk duty while the shooting is investigated.

At the city’s request, the Spokane County Sheriff’s Department is investigating the shooting, but few details were immediately available, including where in Spokane the shooting occurred.

“We are gathering all the facts to make determination if there was anything criminal,” said Deputy Craig Chamberlin, a sheriff’s office spokesman.

Although the shooting occurred Sunday, information was not released to the public until Tuesday.

“We waited a couple days. We wanted the sheriff’s office to have an opportunity to investigate. Also, for an officer who was trying to care for a 10-year-old daughter,” said Spokane Police Chief Scott Stephens. The delay “just felt more appropriate.”

The details about the shooting available so far are only that the girl was at a gathering with family and friends on Sunday. She shot herself in the leg inside the home. Someone from the home called 911, and the girl was taken to a hospital.

Sheriff’s office detectives have not determined how or where the gun was prior to the shooting, Chamberlin said.

O’Connell also will face an internal investigation into whether any departmental policies were violated, which the city said will start after the sheriff’s department’s investigation is complete.

Spokane Police Department policy requires “our officers to keep their weapons secure,” Stephens said. Police issued guns are either .40- or .45-caliber, but which one O’Connell carried was not immediately available.

The shooting comes at a time when firearm safety is being put under the spotlight in Western Washington following three shootings in March that left children dead or wounded. One involved the children of a Marysville police officer who’d left a loaded personal firearm in the glove compartment of his family’s minivan.

O’Connell has been with the police force for 18 years. The veteran officer has a lengthy history of internal affairs investigations, police officials said Tuesday, but he’s also been decorated multiple times.

In March 2007, O’Connell and fellow officer Tracie Meidl rescued a wounded man from a South Hill apartment building that still housed the man’s shooter, according to Spokesman archives. While other officers covered them, O’Connell and Meidl dragged the man out the building, at one point using a police cruiser for cover. A doctor later told police that the man would have died if the officers waited another 10 minutes.

More than a decade earlier, O’Connell was credited with saving a suspected shoplifter’s life when the man dove into the Spokane River near Canada Island to evade police but couldn’t swim back to shore. O’Connell jumped into the river after him and pulled him to safety.

No detailed information was made available regarding disciplinary problems, but Stephens said there was nothing similar to the nature of the current investigation.

\Reporter Thomas Clouse contributed to this report.