Lt. Earle Barnes (courtesy gannet.com)

“An accidental police gunshot into lobby carpet at Town Hall startled officials attending a Town Council workshop Thursday night,” dnj.com reports. “No one was injured after the weapon of Lt. Earl Barnes, the SWAT team commander, discharged after he tied his shoes in a chair in a lobby area.” Passive construction aside, how’d that happen? If your fingers are busy tying your operationally operational SWAT boot laces, how does the pistol’s trigger get depressed? Excess paunch infiltration (Lt. Barnes isn’t the most svelte SWAT guy I’ve ever seen)? Nope. First the damage . . .

The shot left a small hole in the lobby carpet under a coffee table and in front of a bust of the late Sam Ridley, who had served as mayor from 1947 through 1987. Photos of former mayors, current Mayor Mary Esther Reed and her fellow council members also decorate the lounge area with a large TV screen that typically is tuned into the government meeting, including one that had the sound of a gunshot.

“For an accidental discharge, it could not have gone into a better spot,” the chief said. “It went straight into the floor. The bullet itself mushroomed.”

Only about three small pieces of full-metal jacket that had contained the bullet spread on the floor beyond the hole in the carpet without harming Barnes or damaging property, Arnold said.

And now for the negligent discharge denouement . . .

[SWAT Commandeer Lt. Earl] Barnes made two mistakes, the chief said. One included Barnes failing to snap his holster to ensure the weapon would remain in place after he had used his pistol as part of a felony traffic stop to arrest a man accused of armed robbery of a gas station/convenience store at 33 N. Lowry.

“What we think happened is he didn’t snap it down enough in place,” Arnold said.

The other mistake came after Barnes sat down to tie his shoes and then reached for his gun when the pistol fell out of his holster.

The lieutenant and other Smyrna police are trained to let their falling guns land on the ground because the weapons are designed not to fire in such cases, the chief said.

The police department uses Glock Model 22 or 23 .40-caliber pistols.

“We train our officers several times a year in using these weapons,” said Arnold, adding that his officers are expected to be armed and ready to shoot. “Unfortunately, we’re in the line of work where we have to carry weapons.”

Arnold said Barnes did what would be human nature to reach for something that was falling and forgetting the training to let the gun drop to the ground.

“Unfortunately, he made the mistake, and we are held accountable for our actions,” the chief said. “I have accidentally dropped mine at home. I cringed. It didn’t go off.”

Human nature be damned. Barnes is Smyrna’s SWAT Commander, the man in charge of making sure that police officers don’t do something really dumb with a gun – consciously or subconsciously. He, of all people, should have control over his ballistic behavior.

Unfortunately, we’re in the line of work where we have to highlight irresponsible gun owners, so that we can all learn from their mistakes. Here’s hoping that Lt. Barnes shares our desire to spread the gospel of gun safety – highlighting his cringe-worthy experience – at the next City of Smyrna Gun Safety Seminar.

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72 Responses to Irresponsible Gun Owner of the Day: SWAT Commandeer Lt. Earl Barnes

  1. I would figure that an urban SWAT commander ought to be in pretty darn good shape, first of all, and that he or she would be so well-trained with the weapons and associated peripheral systems that they carry daily, like holsters, that it would mindless second nature for them.

    But of course I live in some kind of wishful dream world thinking fantastic crap like this nowadays, in this country.

    I am SO glad I’m not in that line of work anymore.

    • Large police district commander equals bureaucrat. Therefore, being in shape is not a requirement. Knowing whose butt to kiss is. At least in the big Midwestern city that starts with a “Chi” and ends with an “cago” where I’m from.

      • If I’d stayed in that line of work from the late 70’s on and somehow rose to that level, I’d be embarrassed to show myself in public in that kind of shape. And I’d be out front regularly with my guys on their operations, too.

        But I never hid somewhere on the night shifts and studied for promotional exams while other guys answered calls, nor did I ever kiss anybody’s ass.

        Which is why I ended up going out as the simple patrolman I started as.

  2. Remember common citizens, Do as we say not as we do. If you discharge a firearm we will not make excuses but will arrest you on the spot for various charges and keep your firearm.

  3. I put in a couple of years in a histology laboratory. We used special steel knives to section (slice) tissue embedded in paraffin blocks. The knives were sharpened weekly using a special honing machine, and would routinely cut sections 8 – 10 microns (0.00039 inch) thick. In other words they were the sharpest thing on planet earth! And we had a rule: “If you drop one don’t try to catch it.” No fingers or hands were lost on my watch.

    If you spend time using dangerous equipment you should become quite good at knowing which falling object to catch, and which to ignore.

    • Double this on the microtome blade. When I was a graduate student, there was a technician in the Anatomy department who had made the mistake of trying to catch an accidentally-dropped microtome blade. Took off all four fingers on its way to the floor. For a professional using an implement that could kill someone else, this SWAT commander seems to have been either poorly trained, or lacking in impulse control.

      • Geez! You guys worked/studied in dangerous professions! I’m almost more afraid of blades than I am of firearms…almost.

  4. “forgetting the training”

    Memo to Shannon Watts, et al: Here’s your example for how well that extra-special government training works out in practice and is exactly why cops don’t get special carry privilege over the rest of us.

    • She and her ilk see it the other way around. If something like this can happen to one of the Anointed Ones, just imagine the unsanctioned mayhem the unwashed masses could cause!

  5. I started holding my breath waiting to see what charges got filed over this negligent discharge/endangering others, then the room started spinning.

  6. “Unfortunately, he made the mistake, and we are held accountable for our actions…”

    Ah, good, so the SWAT commander will be facing the same criminal charges you’d throw at any ordinary, non-cop citizen who negligently discharged his pistol inside city hall? Chief? Chief? Where are you going? You didn’t answer my question!

  7. I don’t buy the story.

    Glock 22/23’s have a grip safety. Trying to grab a falling pistol is dumb, but managing to fully depress the grip safety, the tripper safety and the trigger in the same swipe by accident seems almost unbelievable. Add on the lame story about not snapping the holster. Add on, why would a holstered gun “fall out” while tying your shoe even it it was unsnapped.

    Sounds better than I was playing with my loaded gun and it went off all by itself I guess.

    • Must be that new-fangled invisible grip safety.

      To me “trigger” safeties are just to make them drop safe. If your finger or a foreign object even accidentally hits the trigger, it’s most likely going to disable the trigger safety.

      • Isn’t it amazing how many people actually seem to want to show off their ignorance to others on the internet? I can’t figure it. What would make people so ignorant as to just blast out that, even tho they have never even held a glock, much less fired one, or have the slightest idea how one works, that they desire to be treated as an expert because they learned how to type the words “grip safety” without even knowing what one is? It boggles my mind….

    • Seriously? Glocks have a grip safety?

      You need to pull your head out of your 4th point of contact and get with the program.

      Just saying

  8. I agree. BS story to cover a bad decision of a undertrained over authorized public servant. I am so ready for the police to become peace keepers and not the wanna be storm troopers they wish they were because they were to out of shape to actually make it into the military. The enemy is over seas not here in our homeland. Or at least not here in Texas!!!! Viva la liberation.

    • The enemy actually IS here at home, mostly in Mordor-on-the-Potomac and Babylon-on-the-Hudson. We don’t need to be overseas for any reason. Except lining the pockets of the big boyz in oil and banking and media.

      We have more to fear from our own cops and government than we do the murderous butchering clowns over there killing each other. Let them have at it and good riddance. And if Murkan do-gooders wanna save the world it’s on their heads when they go to these regions.

  9. All these accidental discharged could be solved by keeping an empty chamber. Israel elite forces are trained to chamber a round when ready for action, it takes a fraction of a second and it works.

    • Ha! Look at the photo accompanying this article and tell me with a straight face that that guy is even the same species as an elite Israeli commando… That “fraction of a second” takes a lot longer when your blubbery fingers are coated in doughnut grease and powdered sugar.

    • The ‘Israeli method’ is about as reasonable with modern semi-autos as leaving one chamber empty in modern revolvers. In other words, it’s dumb and people just do it because they think it makes them into commandos or gunslingers, respectively.

      If you can’t resist pulling the trigger what makes you think you’re operator enough to chamber under pressure?

      • The mentality behind the “israeli method” is the same mentality that’s behind the current US Rules of Engagement. It’s easier to explain dead soldiers than dead (but threatening) noncombatants. YMMV.

        Dead Israeli Elite Forces = No PR Problem. Dead 17 year old Terrorist… err… Palestinian = Problem.

    • Israeli’s no longer carry condition 3 as you are naïvely recommending

      The reason they did was because

      1. Largely untrained population
      2. To have a common manual of arms with numerous varieties
      3. Because many semiauto handguns of yesteryear were not safe in Condition 1.

      I would never carry condition one a gun that was not drop safe. Before the 1970’s, that meant almost any semiauto (few exceptions). Nor would I carry a Glock or any other safety-less gun condition one unless I had a proper holster that covered the trigger guard. I might even carry it condition 3 even then, if I foresee possible problems (say I am playing with my children, rough housing… I either wouldn’t carry or would have it condition 3).

      • Having worked with Israeli Shin Bet, you are correct. Think Uzi design. They no longer carry condition 3.

      • Glad to hear that. #3 was the reason I had heard for the early adoption of that carry method, but I couldn’t fathom why anyone would still use it…

  10. +1 on not being chambered until ready. I carry sw ultralight 38 for those who r uninvited into my space. A sig p220 for those that r to close for comfort. Slugs from a benelli if u r in my home and an ar fully equipped with those evil green tips if u are in my yard. Otherwise I’m good. Live and let live 🙂

      • Green tips do exactly what they are designed to do, pass through creating major wounding, not supposed to kill.

        • Except they were designed to be fired in slow-twist, long barrels. 1:7 rifles render them supremely stable, which is great for long-range accuracy and target shooting, but they need considerable velocity in order to destabilize in the target and cause significant tissue damage. Shorter barrels(like the 14.5″ M4) are on the edge of this velocity threshold. Otherwise they’ll just poke through like an icepick, causing minimal damage and bleeding unless they strike something immediately vital.

        • “poke through like an icepick” Precisely what it was designed to do to a HUMAN TARGET. Wound. Not kill. Get it?

  11. Sounds like they need to spend some money on holsters. $200 bucks buys a good duty holster that has two or more points of retention. I bought a holster from Safariland where it is impossible for the firearm to simply fall out. About snaps on police duty holsters, that is so 1980 vintage. 🙂 on another note, the article highlighted that this department goes to the range twice a year for training. It is not enough, period. 200 to 300 rounds once a week from a duty weapon should be standard for someone in that line of work. I do it, and I haven’t been in LE for over 25 years. Anyhow, just my opinion.

    • Are you lobbying your local government to raise taxes to pay for 200 rounds of ammunition, per officer, per week?

      • $60 bucks in ammo plus 1 hour at the range multiplied by 52 is a lot cheaper than a lawsuit for making a mistake and a funeral or two. It is about priorities. If the government removed all the BS training mandated by the Progressives, I am certain they can find the money. Look, everyone has a budget, me included. What do you spend your money on, something that will save your life or something that will score you browny points with the local political elite?

    • I saw a Waltham, MA PD wearing a holster that looked to be about half the size of a loaf of bread – it was huge. I think I unnerved the guy because I was staring it it trying to figure out WTF.

      I can only imagine it has a call-home device if it’s ever pulled. Maybe it’s the cop equivalent of the ankle bracelet for over-reactive PD? I can’t find it with all of my Google-fu, so it must be uber-specialized.

      Anyone?

  12. So, they don’t use retention holsters?!?! I thought that was “required” for such highly trained law enforcement professionals! And if it fell out of the holster wouldn’t it be pointing upwards? Or horizontal-ish? This sounds like typical, cover your a$$ bullsh*t to me.

  13. Imagine if a regular guy had the ND in the Town Hall. The guy almost certainly would have had a gun jammed in his face while being swarmed, cuffed, stuffed, and charged in a way that even with a plea guaranteed no firearms for life. This SWAT clown gets off with a stern look and (certainly) relentless ribbing from his colleagues.

  14. If you read the extremely tiny tiny print in the glock manuals you will see the warning to not tie your shoes when your pistol is not snapped in – failure to do so will result in a negligent discharge.

    (sarcasm)

    I call BS on this. Something had to engage the trigger safety and trigger and if your tying your shoes your using 2 hands = BS. Unless there was an evil trigger fairy flying around.

    Just saying

    • I don’t see the question here, it started to fall out of his 30-years obsolete (but likely very attractive) snap-retainer holster and he grabbed for it, accidentally stuffing one canned-ham of a finger into the trigger guard in the process and setting it off.

  15. Clearly the guy iss far to large to be able to tie his shoes with his feet on the floor.
    He had to strain to get his shoes up on the leg so he could reach around his immense midsection.
    When I weighed 310 pounds I could not bend to tie my should with my feet on the floor. A big mile stone for me was when I could do that again for the first time in well over a decade.
    Secondly, this mo-ron needs to learn how to tie his shoes properly so that won’t loosen until he actually takes off his shoes.
    One of these day I’m going to upload a video to show him, and professional athletes how they should tie their shoes. 🙂 Hint: It is a variation of the fisherman’s knot called the surgeon’s loop.

  16. They had a mayor for 40 years? I got money says they’re all Dems. And the statement that “unfortunately, we have to carry guns” tells you how much they care about their “training”.

  17. As Tom Gresham often points out guns don’t just “go off”. There is NO SUCH THING as an accidental discharge. Unintended maybe but still ALWAYS negligent.

    Ray

  18. Oh geezus, got all the way to the end of the article before realizing that’s my Smyrna, the one where I grew up. I’d never admit that if this weren’t the internet.

    Knowing what I do about those guys this isn’t entirely shocking. Most of em are pretty good but some, well, some have NDs in town hall…

    • And that about says it all….
      Except for this: Note which ones get the promotions and the choice SWAT details. The good ones, or the ones that are negligent in Town Hall???

  19. When I drop something, I interpose my foot to cushion its fall; should work for a GLOCK.

    Note: I do not do this with internal combustion engines, anvils or automotive batteries et cetera.

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