15-year-old uninjured following accident

Published 9:44 am Thursday, December 3, 2015

A 15-year-old Saylor’s Pizza employee is uninjured after being accidentally shot in the ankle by a gun discharged in a neighboring building Tuesday afternoon.

According to authorities, officers with the police department were dispatched to Benny’s Barber Shop on Front Street, after receiving a call about a shooting at that location around 4:26 p.m. After arriving at the scene, police learned that a 36-year-old Dowagiac man was showing off a .380 caliber semi-automatic handgun to someone interested in purchasing the weapon inside the barbershop when the owner accidentally fired the weapon toward a nearby wall.

The fired bullet penetrated through the structure and entered Saylor’s Pizza, which is located next door to the barber shop. The bullet then bounced off a trashcan inside the parlor and ricocheted into the ankle 15-year-old victim.

The projectile had luckily lost enough momentum at that point to where it failed to pierce the victim’s skin, leaving him with no injuries and without need of medical care, said Director of Public Safety Steve Grinnewald.

“The fact the bullet made it as far as it did is a little surprising,” Grinnewald said. “A .380 doesn’t typically have a lot of power behind it.”

Officers spoke to the gun owner and several other witnesses at the scene, the former of whom was cooperative with investigators, turning in his weapon to authorities. The gun owner told police that he accidently fired the pistol while attempting to unload its ammunition, Grinnewald said.

The owner of the gun was within his rights to carry his weapon into the business, as he had a concealed weapons permit for the pistol. The business owner also gave him permission to pull out and show off the gun as well; according to Michigan law, most businesses reserve the right to permit or not permit patrons to ability to carry weapons onto their property, Grinnewald said.

While police have ruled the incident an accident, they have submitted the case to the county as a potential reckless discharge of a firearm, the police chief said.

“Where it becomes a grey area, and the reason we’re submitting this case to the prosecutor, is because anytime you are handling a weapon you have to do so in a safe manner,” Grinnewald said.

The Cass County Prosecutor’s Office will decide as to whether or not to pursue charges in the matter, the police chief said.

Regardless of the legal consequences of his actions, Grinnewald said the incident highlights the importance for owners to always follow gun safety rules — especially since the accidental discharge of a higher caliber weapon in this case may have resulted in much greater damage.

“Whenever you are handling a firearm, you have to keep every safety precaution in mind,” Grinnewald said. “You can’t gloss over or forget these kinds of things … fortunately, this was a good lesson for that, as no one got hurt.”