Pa. officer shoots another with pellet gun

By Kathleen Parrish and Dalondo Moultrie Of The Morning Call

Copyright 2006 The Morning Call, Inc.

An Allentown police officer has been suspended with pay after he shot another police officer in the arm with a pellet gun inside the police station Saturday, according to a statement released Wednesday by police Chief Roger MacLean.

The officer who was shot did not require medical treatment and didn't miss any work, according to the news release.

Assistant Police Chief David Howells Jr. said the 8 p.m. shooting happened near the complaint desk of police headquarters, a busy office area behind a glass window where officers take reports from the public and gather between shifts.

Police withheld the names of the officers involved pending the outcome of an internal investigation and would not release the incident report, an official record of the occurrence. Subsequently, The Morning Call has filed a Right to Know request for access to the report.

In a prepared statement, MacLean called the Allentown shooting an "aberration," but said he is taking steps to make sure it doesn't happen again.

"Our department places an extremely high emphasis on weapons safety and our officers review safety procedures annually during weapons requalifications," he said. "Though this was just a pellet gun, we take this extremely seriously. Our procedures have been reissued to all officers and they are being reviewed with the officers by shift supervisors."

The shooting also was reported to the Lehigh County district attorney's office, police said. District Attorney James Martin was not available for comment.

MacLean's statement said the gun used in the shooting had been confiscated from a juvenile in custody for an unrelated offense.

"I don't know if it was accidental or intentional or negligent or what," Howells said Tuesday. "We're conducting the internal investigation to determine what happened and how it happened. If there's negligence or anything else that caused that to happen, we'll take some action."

Last year, the Lehigh Valley's two other large police departments reported gun incidents inside their headquarters.

In October, a Bethlehem police captain reportedly held a loaded .40 caliber Glock handgun to the head of another officer inside headquarters. Police closed the case without making an arrest after Capt. William McLaughlin, a 26-year veteran of the police department, agreed to retire immediately. The victim said he did not want to press charges. But Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli launched an investigation last month after reading about it in Paul Carpenter's column in The Morning Call.

In March 2005, Easton officer Jesse Sollman died after another officer, Matthew Renninger, fatally shot him with a .40 caliber pistol in a gun-cleaning room. A state grand jury ruled the shooting an accident, but recommended Renninger be fired and derided the department for a lack of gun-safety measures. Renninger was allowed to retire.

The gun used in the Allentown shooting was a pellet gun, which fires projectiles using compressed air or CO2 cartridges as a propellant. Police would not give the make or model of the gun, which typically isn't deadly. But about 30,000 people a year are treated in emergency rooms for injuries caused by such weapons, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many injuries are eye-related, but pellets can be capable of penetrating the skull and causing brain injury.

Allentown Council President David Howells said MacLean had not notified council of the incident, but was not required to. He declined further comment.

Police said no further comment will be released until the internal investigation is completed and reviewed by the prosecutor's office.

Morning Call reporter Daniel Patrick Sheehan contributed to this report. 
May 18, 2006

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