N.C. officer back at work after accidental training shooting

By Mark Schultz, Staff Writer
The News & Observer (Raleigh, North Carolina)
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - The Chapel Hill police officer who shot a fellow officer in the foot during a training exercise last month has returned to work.

Sgt. Donald Rhoads, 34, was judged fit to return to duty after being on administrative leave March 1 to 6, Police Chief Gregg Jarvies said. The incident was the second time his weapon had gone off accidentally, according to police.

Sgt. Andrew Smith had surgery last week to strengthen the bone in his foot. He faces more surgery, Jarvies said. He is expected to return to full duty in six to seven months, Jarvies said.

Rhoads and Smith participated in a training exercise Feb. 28 run by the Fayetteville Police Department. Rhoads' rifle fired as he was unloading it, police said. Officers train with live ammunition to make exercises as realistic as possible, Jarvies said.

Although the Police Department found no criminal intent, it continues to investigate the shooting to see whether the officers followed safety protocols and to make sure those procedures are strict enough, Jarvies said.

"Something obviously occurred that should not have," Jarvies said. "There was no goofing off. There was no playing around with the weapon."

It was the second time Rhoads had been involved in an accidental shooting since joining the department in 1995.

In response to a request from The News & Observer, police attorney Terrie Gale provided a copy of a 1995 police incident report. In a letter she said Rhoads' weapon went off after he and another officer stopped a motorist who had run several red lights, hit a patrol car and kept driving along N.C. 54 with his hood up.

"As Sergeant Rhoads walked up to the driver's side of the vehicle, the driver's side door was flung open by the driver, apparently hitting Sergeant Rhoads' gun," Gale wrote. "As Sergeant Rhoads attempted to maintain control of his gun, it accidentally fired, breaking a window."

Jarvies, who is retiring after 32 years on the force, said he did not initially remember the 1995 incident and thinks there have been only five or six accidental shootings in his time with the department.

"Two to the same officer in 11 years? Absolutely different circumstances," he said. "It's something that's going to happen when you deal with firearms. You hope it doesn't."

The News & Observer left a message but could not reach Rhoads for comment Thursday.

He was promoted to sergeant in 2005 and works in the investigations division. 

Copyright 2007 The News and Observer

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