By LIBBY CUDMORE• Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN – Sheriff Richard J. Devlin Jr. wants to assure the public that the law applies to everyone – even cops.
“Police officers are not above the law,” he said. “They have a responsibility as well.”
A yet-unnamed Otsego County Sheriff’s deputy has been placed on administrative leave after state police reported a child and adult were injured when the gun he was carrying in his pocket accidentally discharged while he was dining Saturday, Sept. 12, at the Grape and Grog in Camden, Oneida County.
As of Tuesday, Sept. 15, Troop D, based in Oneida, was attempting to schedule an interview with the deputy, who has retained legal counsel. His name has not yet been released and charges have not yet been filed.
“The sheriff’s department has been cooperative throughout the whole investigation,” said Trooper Jack Keller, Troop D public relations officer.
According to Keller, the deputy was seated at a table when he accidentally discharged one round from a handgun he was carrying in his pants pocket.
“We’re still trying to determine why the gun went off,” said Keller.
He said the bullet exited through the bottom of the deputy’s pocket, through his wallet, and ricocheted off the concrete floor.
Though it was initially believed that the girl was injured by a concrete chip, investigators now say she may have been struck by the bullet.
“The little girl was at the table next to his with her back to him,” Keller explained. “When the gun went off, the bullet may have gone past her elbow and her right hip, then struck the ground.”
He said that the woman sitting next to her, who was also injured, described that she felt “like her foot was on fire. She thought it was fireworks.”
Both injuries were minor and treated by EMS at the scene.
According to Devlin, a second off-duty deputy was also at the scene, but has not been charged or put on administrative leave.
The weapon was not a department-issue weapon, said Devlin. “We encourage our deputies to carry even when off-duty,” he said. “We’re police officers 24/7, and there are situations we are expected to respond to.”
For a deputy to carry while off-duty, he said, the weapon has to be an inspected, approved firearm, and the deputy has to qualify to use it, just as he would his service weapon.
And above all, he stressed safety when carrying a loaded weapon. “Firearms should be properly secured and carried on a person,” he said.
The deputy will remain on administrative leave pending the outcome of the state police investigation. He is also currently under an internal review from the Sheriff’s Department.