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Safety rules not followed when Chino police rifle went off at school

October 24, 2013|By Samantha Schaefer

Safety procedures weren't properly followed when a student discharged a rifle mounted on a Chino police officer's motorcycle, department officials said Thursday.

A child at Newman Elementary School approached the rifle and pulled the trigger about 11:15 a.m. Wednesday,  said Tamrin Olden, a spokeswoman for the Chino Police Department.

The AR-15 rifle was locked onto the motorcycle that was on display during a Red Ribbon Week drug abuse prevention event, Olden said. Three students were injured. 

“The preliminary investigation has shown that the established safeguards and procedures were not followed,” Chino Police Chief Miles Pruitt said in a statement.  “It is unfortunate that this event occurred and I will make every effort to ensure it does not happen again.”

A statement from the Chino Police Department did not specify which policy was not properly followed. Department guidelines pertaining to patrol rifles include conditions such as: The chamber is empty; the safety is off; the rifle is stored in a locked vehicle's rifle rack or trunk.

“The rifle was … secured in the mount on the motorcycle during the incident,” Olden said at a Wednesday evening news conference. “The child did approach the mounted rifle.”

The students, whose ages were not known, suffered minor injuries, Olden said. None were hit by gunfire. Two probably were struck by metal debris, resulting in "extremely minor injuries," she said.

Police are investigating exactly how the weapon fired. Olden said “there are several fail-safes in place” to prevent a discharge, adding that one safety measure did engage.

“One fail-safe was effective in that the bullet disintegrated when discharged by striking a metal plate where the barrel rests against the weapons mount,” Olden said in a statement.

Two students were taken to a hospital with injuries not believed to be life-threatening, said Chino Valley Fire District spokeswoman Massiel Ladron De Guevara. The third student’s parents declined to have the child taken to the hospital, she said.

One student who was injured was released from the hospital Wednesday night after metal was removed from the child’s eye, KTLA-TV reported.

A parent told KTLA her son was playing four-square when he heard the shot and saw the gun smoking on the motorcycle. Children were crying and scared, and some didn’t want to return to school, she said her son told her.

“Why was it loaded, and why wasn’t the safety on?” she said.

Comments on the Chino Valley Unified School District Facebook page questioned why the AR-15 was loaded and how the student had access to it. Others said their children were afraid to go back to school.

Law enforcement officials were at the school for activities related to a nationwide drug abuse prevention campaign when the weapon was discharged during a demonstration, according to a statement from district.

Red Ribbon Week activities will continue at the school as planned while police and school officials continue to investigate the incident, district spokeswoman Julie Gobin said. Counselors were on campus Thursday to speak with any students and staff who needed them.


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Twitter: @Sam_Schaefer

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