Fla. sheriff fires deputy whose gun discharged in school cafeteria

An investigation found he was fidgeting with his service pistol when it went off during a lunch period


Tony Marrero
Tampa Bay Times

NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. — Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco on Wednesday fired a deputy whose gun discharged at a middle school earlier this year.

An investigation determined that Cpl. Jonathan Cross was fidgeting with his service pistol when it went off during lunch period April 30 in the cafeteria at Weightman Middle School, Sheriff Chris Nocco said at a news conference.

Pasco Cpl. Jonathan Cross was fired after his gun discharged at Weightman Middle School. (Photo/Paso County Schools)
Pasco Cpl. Jonathan Cross was fired after his gun discharged at Weightman Middle School. (Photo/Paso County Schools)

Nocco said he fired Cross, a school resource officer, for conduct unbecoming a deputy and for mishandling his service weapon.

“His actions with his weapon caused it to fire,” Nocco said. “I just want to thank God that no one kids in that lunch room were hurt. It’s sad what we have to do today. It would have been tragic if a child was harmed.”

Nocco said surveillance video showed Cross lifting the Sig Sauer P320 in and out of its holster. It’s unclear whether his finger or some other object engaged the trigger, Nocco said.

The round struck a wall behind Cross. There were about 10 students in the lunch room at the time.

“Ultimately, it comes down to, if you leave the gun in the holster, it’s not going to go off,” Nocco said.

A student told a detective he had in the past seen Cross lifting his weapon up and down out of its holster, and Cross admitted during the investigation that he had a bad habit of fidgeting with his gun, Nocco said.

The Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement each conducted tests of the pistol and found the gun was functioning properly at the time.

The Sheriff’s Office brought a case for filing a culpable negligence charge to the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney’s Office.

Prosecutors stated in a response letter that pursuing charges wasn’t warranted and that the matter would be better handled administratively by the Sheriff’s Office.

Cross joined the Sheriff’s Office in 2005 and had been at Weightman for about two years, Nocco said.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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