Bessemer, PA Police Chief Accidentally Kills Self While Cleaning Firearm

A shooting accident happened last week in my old stomping grounds in Western Pennsylvania. A funeral service was held this weekend for Thomas Macri, the ranking police officer for the Borough of Bessemer, Pennsylvania. Officer Macri killed himself last week while cleaining his service pistol at home. KDKA in Pittsburgh reports that Macri accidentally shot himself “while cleaning a .40 caliber pistol at his home. Police say he was home alone at the time, but was discovered a short while later by his girlfriend.” Foul play was not suspected. An autopsy revealed that Macri suffered a gunshot wound to the lower chest area, which severed an artery, causing him to bleed to death . . .

“The type of weapon he had, could easily discharge. We’ve investigate[d] similar type incidents before,” KDKA quotes Pennsylvania State Trooper Joseph Vascetti.

None of the articles relating to Macri’s death identify the “easily discharged” pistol the chief was “cleaning,” other than its caliber. Suffice it to say, I’m confident that Trooper Vascetti’s comment is 100% correct: no matter what pistol Officer Macri was cleaning, if it was a semi-automatic, I’m positive it was easy to discharge…as long as a round was chambered, any manual safeties were disabled, and the trigger was pulled. Which also has to make you wonder if what happened was truly an accident.

Potential thin blue line obfuscation aside, as TTAG reported earlier this month, gun owners do a very good job in terms of gun safety in this country. Despite the fact that the number of firearms in private hands continues to increase, the number of unintended firearms fatalities continues to decline. Still, there’s no excuse for complacency, and Officer Macri’s death should be a warning to everyone.

As a reminder — to myself as much as anyone else — here are the late Col. Jeff Cooper’s famous four rules of firearm safety. It takes a violation of at least two of the rules to unintentionally harm someone.

RULE I: All guns are always loaded.

RULE II: Never let the muzzle cover antyhing you are not willing to destroy.

RULE III: Keep your finger off the trigger until the sights are on target.

RULE IV: Be sure of your target.

Stay safe out there.

DISCLAIMER: The above is an opinion piece; it is not legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship in any sense. If you need legal advice in any matter, you are strongly urged to hire and consult your own counsel. This post is entirely my own, and does not represent the positions, opinions, or strategies of my firm or clients.


  1. avatar jlp says:

    I am curious. What brand of firearm did he own?

    1. avatar Curtis in IL says:

      Doesn’t matter. Whether this was suicide or stupidity, no gun has been invented that can overcome either of those powerful forces.

  2. avatar Fishydude says:

    Just as studied have found that the majority of single vehicle fatal car crashes are actually suicide, the same is like true of the “fatal gun cleaning accidents. ”
    Insurance doesn’t pay for suicide. No church funeral or burial in consecrated ground.
    Still tragic. But not likely an accident.

    1. avatar Ralph says:

      Fishydude, insurance does pay for suicide as long as the act does not occur within the “contestable period,” which in Pennsylvania is two years.

      1. avatar 16V says:

        Varies widely by state. Some states view suicide while insane as accidental death, there are many different views for suicide while sane.

    2. avatar Hannibal says:

      How on earth would a study determine if a single vehicle car crash was a suicide or not?

      1. avatar Anon in CT says:

        Skidmarks in front of the bridge abutment, bottle of Johnny Walker on the floor of the car, etc. Or absence thereof.

    3. It’s actually pretty easy to tell the difference between and accident, a suicide, and someone falling asleep. The key is in the wrists. Someone who falls asleep will not have broken wrists, where a suicide will. A conscious driver will tense up on the steering wheel and the wrists will punch the instrument panel and break. Likewise, the presence or absence of vehicle corrective action will show an accident or suicide.

      Accident reconstruction science is really good and forensic pathologists are amazing. It’s really not hard to tell the difference between accident, suicide, and falling asleep.

      1. avatar percynjpn says:

        That’s interesting information – makes sense.

  3. avatar notalima says:

    Just remember: According to the Anti’s only police and the military are qualified to handle those evil black death machines.

    1. avatar working4change says:

      so get a pink one.

      besides this is no accident. who would get to the point of cleaning a weapon and still have a chambered round!?

      first step remove magazine 2nd empty and verify chamber is clear. then disassemble and clean parts. even if chambered if you take it apart the bullet does not just go off. it take a pointy little thing called a fireing pin to hit the primer with force to go off.

      this is just the normal cover up of a suicide to save his family from the lose of benefits and his legacy…. nothing more. in the end it adds yet another “accident” that helps the Antis.

      1. avatar Bigdiogi says:

        I don’t have enough information to know what happened, but my suspicions are you are correct.I am an ex-cop, it does happen.

      2. avatar jsallison says:

        I’ve had 2LT’s pull back the slide, verify chamber is clear, release slide, remove magazine, pull trigger, scare the living crap out of everyone in the hallway when the thing goes ‘pew’. One in particular was a freshly minted arms room officer. The supply clerk who replaced me so I could get back out on the tanks did the same bloody thing. He also figured a body bag would make an excellent sleeping bag cover. No one told him that there was no zipper handle on the inside. Muahaha!

  4. avatar William Burke says:

    So we are to believe that the chief doesn’t know how to clean a gun properly?

    1. avatar Galtha58 says:

      @William: My thoughts exactly. Appears to be a suicide. If he cleans his gun often or knows anything at all about guns or gun safety this would not have happened. So, the chances are it was NOT an accident. How would you, or anyone, shoot themselves in the chest when cleaning a pistol? Look down the barrel and pull the trigger to make sure it is not loaded ? No, I didn’t think so. First think anyone with brains does is clear their firearm. Next is to treat it like it is loaded even though they know it has been cleared. Next is to not point the barrel at themselves. Last is to keep fingers off the trigger. How difficult are those steps to follow? Now we are to believe that an experienced policeman forgot all of that ? Not likely.

    2. avatar Publius says:

      You have too much faith in the police. Remember, these are the same people who got courts to rule that it’s OK for them to refuse to hire intelligent people – they’re not the best and brightest. I’d say there’s a good chance this is one of the few times he’s ever tried to clean a gun in his life due to lack of experience with guns. He probably had a Glock, didn’t clear the chamber, and used his thumb to pull the trigger to already have it in that godawful claw grip you need to take down a Glock (one of the worst takedown designs I’ve ever had the displeasure of using).

      1. avatar Curtis in IL says:

        Field stripping a Glock isn’t difficult and doesn’t involve pointing it at yourself. Heck, even Ashley can do it.

        1. avatar WV Cycling says:

          I’m all for avoiding misogyny in firearms related materials, but damn… If every instruction manual was like that, I’d know how to rebuild a pressure washer or my lawnmower in no time!

        2. avatar Curtis in IL says:

          noun: misogyny
          dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women.

          Cleaning a gun while wearing lingerie does not misogyny make.

        3. avatar LarryinTX says:

          I’d like to see the disassembly of that lingerie! The gun doesn’t impress me, if she was using those hand tools on me, I’d come all apart, too.

    3. avatar GRW says:

      Not saying it’s the case here but it could be an elected or appointed position, if so he just needed to be popular with a couple hundred people (in a small city) or be the Mayors inbred cousin. Even if he was a cop at some point he may not of handled a firearm in a decade or more.

      Just because someone holds the title doesn’t mean they are an experienced LEO, or that they are firing on all cylinders.

  5. avatar Rad Man says:

    I’m sorry about this and I know it’s an official statement but it was a suicide. Calling it an accident is disingenuous.

    1. avatar Bob Wall says:

      Calling it an accident is only beneficial to any survivors and the estate. But yeah, if it smells like an accidental S-IGSW, it usually isn’t.

      That notwithstanding, my condolences to his girlfriend, family, friends, and fellow officers with whom he served and knew.

      1. avatar LarryinTX says:

        It may also have been a murder. But, probably suicide. I’d like to see a demonstration of his gun “discharging”. I suggest load it up, lay it on the table and turn on the videotape, wait as long as it takes. Or, since he was cleaning it, and the first step would be to unload it, then UNLOAD it, lay it on the table etc. This level of actual stupidity is impossible!

      2. avatar Rad Man says:

        Good point about the bennies and estate Bob.

  6. avatar Vitsaus says:

    Whenever I hear “Accidentally killed himself while cleaning his gun” I assume its a euphemism for something else.

    1. avatar American says:

      Yup, how do you even manage to point an un-field-stripped gun at you, loaded or not?

    2. avatar Dale says:

      it always was in the departments I worked with.

  7. Sad, but not surprising.

  8. avatar jl says:

    That is sad. I’ll bet it was a glock.

    1. avatar Curtis in IL says:

      If he had hung himself, what brand of rope do you think he would have used?

      1. avatar GRW says:

        None, he would of accidently hung himself with his belt in the closet while reaching for his shoes.

        1. avatar 16V says:

          And when people die doing auto-erotic asphyxiation, they sanitize it like this….

  9. avatar Bob says:

    Rule V: unload and show clear

  10. They blaming the gun again?

    Unless he trigger sear was worn out, it is likely he put his finger on the trigger.

    1. avatar LarryinTX says:

      and pointed it at himself.

  11. avatar Kilo says:

    Sad… but as my Pops always said when I was a kid. “Keep your booger hooks off of the bang switch!”

  12. avatar CoolBreeze says:

    You don’t clean a gun while it is loaded, so he either shot himself before or after he cleaned it, not while cleaning it.

    1. avatar Mark N. says:

      I mean really, how do you remove the slide from a semiauto when the barrel is pointed at you? The only possibility is that occurs to me is that he hadn’t cleaned his gun in so long the side was stuck, and he muzzled himself trying to open it–but even that requires a finger on the trigger. The only other classic accident–pulling the trigger to release the slide on a striker fired pistol but forgetting to clear the chamber–doesn’t apply because no one points the gun at themselves while doing so.

      1. avatar gary says:

        Actually, a friend of mine did shoot himself while cleaning his wife’s strikerfired handgun. He had just finished cleaning all his and asked his wife if she would like him to clean hers while the cleaning kit was out. She removed the magazine and handed him the pistol. He pulled the trigger without thinking since he watched his wife remove the magazine. Only got careless that one time but it cost him weeks in the hospital with a 9mm hole through his left leg. Another person I knew tried to help a friend who had a .22 semi auto pistol that locked the slide closed. While trying to open the slide, the gun went off striking him the the forehead, killing him. Violation of the rules has consequences but things happen.

  13. avatar twency says:

    I’ve been told by a former LEO that “accidentally shot himself while cleaning his gun” was a standard reporting euphemism for suicide. EIther to make it sound “nicer” for the family, or for life insurance purposes (which means it’s basically fraud).

    1. avatar LarryinTX says:

      I haven’t had life insurance in a long time, but I recall many policies had clauses that they paid double and triple for “accidental” death. Cleaning accident is, suicide is not. We are pretty sure he offed himself, but there is no proof of such, so if there was cleaning equipment present, I’d say “accident” and let the insurance company prove it was not.

  14. avatar Louis Marschalko says:

    This happens with the “pull trigger before removing slide” style of semi-automatic pistols. Obviously, we must be ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN that the chamber is clear before beginning the field stripping process.

    1. avatar NDS says:

      Yeah every time I clean a Glock I point it at the middle of my chest. It’s ok even though I use my teeth as a bushing wrench for my 1911’s, I don’t have to pull the trigger first.

      1. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

        “teeth as a bushing wrench”
        It took a moment, then the mental picture developed, and then I started laughing out loud.

        1. avatar jsallison says:

          After finally getting the Bremerhaven R&G club to make good on delivery of a MkIV Series 70 that I’d paid in full 2 years before, taking the thing apart I wasn’t far from using teeth to remove the barrel bushing. That was one stiff SOB. Fortunately I had (other) tools. Vise, ball peen hammer and brass drift for the win. Later took it to a gun smith in Colorado Springs who civilized it. That was one sweet shooter after that.

  15. avatar Coffee Addict says:

    ..another “gun death” for bloomies to blame guns for.

    If only the “only ones” had to pass a federal common sense background think of the children not one more check!

  16. avatar Ralph says:

    “An autopsy revealed that Macri suffered a gunshot wound to the lower chest area, which severed an artery, causing him to bleed to death . . .”

    If that’s a suicide, it was a damn sloppy one.

    1. avatar Robb says:

      Unless he meant to shoot himself in the lower chest area. Hoping to hit his abdominal aorta.

      Being LEO, he probably had basic anatomy knowledge (from either study or field experience) and would know there aren’t any bones in the way to deflect the bullet. He might also understand he might be able to bleed out enough into his thoracic and abdominal cavity in order to avoid a gruesome scene for whoever found him. And, a head shot would be horrible to come home to.

      1. avatar Stinkeye says:

        If you’re trying to kill yourself without making a gruesome mess, why would you use a gun in the first place, and just hope you get a lucky shot that only causes internal bleeding? If you’re worried about the cleanup, blow your head off outside near a garden hose spigot.

        1. avatar jsallison says:

          Because disemboweling yourself with your katana is going to be really hard to pull off as an accidental chiffonading.

    2. avatar Accur81 says:

      I was thinking along similar lines. Then again, a sloppy suicide looks less like a suicide. I’m trying to mentally picture why I would point a Glock at my chest in order to take it down and coming up blank.

    3. avatar Former Water Walker says:

      You’re right about life insurance Ralph(used to sell it)-but if extreme fraud is determined it can go cablooie . And the murder(?) 3 weeks ago of a cop in Fox Lake,IL was found to have a close -up “devastating” chest wound just above his vest…makes you go hmmm…

  17. avatar Wood says:

    Rule IV – be sure of your target and what lies beyond it.

    And yeah, suicide or murder.

  18. When it happens to a police chief, he accidentally shot himself. But when it happens to a ‘banger-wannabe taking selfies, like that kid in Houston three weeks ago, the gun just accidentally went off. It’s so difficult keeping track. I’m so confused.

  19. avatar Dustin says:

    But, but, he’s a highly trained superhero! He’s the only one who should ever be allowed to have a gun because in hands it can do no wrong! He’s better than all of us stupid ammosexual teabaggers! How do we manage to stay alive when our betters can’t pull it off? WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!!!!! I’m pretty sure the truth is that it “just went off.”

    These people… So much spin they can’t even walk straight anymore…

  20. avatar Charlie says:

    If I had a nickel for every time I’ve read about someone shooting their self (or others) while “Cleaning a gun” I’d be a millionaire. And what kind of idiot fails to clear the gun before cleaning it? I honestly don’t know, but I do wonder how many of these incidents are actually homicide or suicide made to look like accidental discharge. Or maybe somebody was drunk and playing cowboy.

    1. avatar LarryinTX says:

      Especially for a cop as the target, it would be a great plan for a murder. I mean, the perp making the murder look somewhat like a suicide, followed by all the cops trying to cover it up as an accident, nobody even looking at murder.

  21. avatar jwm says:

    Accident. Suicide. Don’t matter. Respect and condolences to the loved ones and his community.

    1. avatar Charlie says:

      Absolutely. Respect and condolences always.

      I was not addressing officer Macri’s unfortunate incident, but was instead reflecting upon all of the similar incidents I’ve read about over the years. I’m just not sure that the situation is exactly what is being reported in the press (duh! When was it ever?).

      In the Christian ethos suicide is a sin. But maybe it’s not as bad as sin if you make it look like an accident. At least people don’t talk about you as much (or in the same way).

      1. avatar jwm says:

        Charlie, I meant my comment as a stand alone. I wasn’t attempting to chastise anyone or start an argument.

        I’ve known people that died in accidents, battle, suicide and murder. Each has their own level of pain and recovery for those left behind.

    2. avatar Curtis in IL says:

      Jwm, here’s why it matters: If the media is allowed to report the lie that this was an accident, it perpetuates the idea that guns are so dangerous, even trained professionals can get killed by them! It feeds the hoplophobic misconception that guns kill on their own, which leads to visceral panic attacks at the mere sight of a gun.

      This won’t help with the normalization of open carry, or 2A rights in general.

      1. avatar Chip Bennett says:

        This won’t help with the normalization of open carry, or 2A rights in general.

        Somehow, automobiles, swimming pools, household chemicals, multi-story houses with stairs, and a host of other things that result in more accidental deaths than firearms all are, and remain, “normalized”.

        1. avatar Curtis in IL says:

          Yes. Amazingly, such tragedies are never used as fuel in the the left-wing crusade against swimming pools.

    3. avatar foo dog says:

      Yup. Going on and on is just simple disrespect to the family. We can do better here.

  22. avatar Rick the Bear says:

    I feel badly for the survivors whatever the reason. My issue is with the “guns are always loaded” rule. I don’t like it.

    I recently took a carbine class and his 4 rules were:
    >finger off of the trigger until you’re on target
    >don’t point the gun at anything you don’t want to shoot
    >be aware of the status of your weapon
    >be aware of your target and what’s beyond.

    If the gun is ALWAYS loaded, you could never put it in a range bag, never drop your pants in the john when wearing a pocket holster, never clean it, never dry fire, never walk up open stairs with a belt holster, never ever appendix carry (ooh that femoral artery), never place a long gun in a vehicle rack (for the free states that allow it).

    When I teach the safety class, I say that: the gun is always loaded until you check it. Again.

    I’ll tell the student (or anyone who is new to gunning, that, if I passed a firearm to you (after checking it, of course) and you passed it back to me, that I would check it again.

    I tell them that I store the guns in my main safe unloaded in cases and that I check them when I remove one even though I store them unloaded. It takes 3 seconds and it saves the house from damage.

    The above points on pointing it at your chest when field stripping not withstanding. Duh.

    Just a thought.

    1. avatar Gary Schulze says:

      I’ve always thought rule 1 should read: Assume any gun that has been out of your control to be loaded until you verify its status. That’s how we all act, because otherwise we’d be in an infinite loop of checking the gun.

      1. avatar Rick the Bear says:

        Fair enough

  23. avatar James says:

    Respect for your service, let the pipers play slowly as they lower you down.
    Roll call and God bless to your family.

  24. avatar Joe Wright says:

    It is not beyond the realm of being true. While qualifying at the Iowa Dept. of Corrections academy, I watched as a young lady , looked down the barrel. Of a 686, after a misfire. Needless to say , I yelled at her not to do that. I informed the range officer that she had a problem, and he took care of it. This was a Iowa farm girl, that could shoot rifle , revolver and shot gun , quite well. Her problem was safety. By the way , did they find a thumb print on the trigger ?

  25. avatar NJ2AZ says:

    chalk me up as another who thought “cover up suicide” as soon as he saw he headline…

  26. avatar Hank Locker says:

    I have a friend whose LEO father died the same way. It was ultimately ruled a suicide, and affected the insurance payout (none). Sometimes despondency trumps careful consideration of potential survivor benefits…

  27. avatar Independent George says:

    Does anybody else hate the way rule 1 is worded? The way it’s worded above, it sounds like an imperative: keep every gun loaded at all times (which is the opposite of safe practice).

    I feel like it should instead be: “Treat every gun as if it were loaded”.

    1. avatar Grindstone says:

      That’s the way I’ve always understood it. The “guns are always loaded” rule comes from safety nazis.

      1. avatar Curtis in IL says:

        It came from Col. Jeff Cooper.
        1. All guns are always loaded. Even if they are not, treat them as if they are.

  28. avatar Mark Lloyd says:

    Why not just invite Justin Bieber into your home to clean your guns for you!

  29. avatar Grindstone says:

    I don’t know about your cleaning routine, but mine NEVER involves pointing the gun at myself and pulling the trigger…

  30. avatar Doug McNeil says:

    I never quite understood how people can have a negligent discharge while they’re cleaning a gun.

    The very first thing that you always do when you clean a gun is to clear it. And no ammunition anywhere in the immediate vicinity where you’re cleaning it. Two simple rules that prevent tragedies.

  31. avatar Fuque says:

    My BS meter spiked reading this, ” Dies while cleaning his gun”….. sounds like the media is attempting to pick up the clean end of a turd.

  32. avatar Anon says:

    It actually could have been an accident. A cop in our neighborhood was cleaning his duty weapon. Shot himself in the leg, very painful, long term rehab. He doesn’t know what happened!
    As a cop he would know you live awhile, presumably in pain, if shot in chest, dead real quick if it’s a head st.

    1. avatar Tom in Georgia says:

      I can tell you, with complete, lead-pipe certainty, what happened to your neighborhood cop. One, he did not unload his gun. Two, he pointed the muzzle at some part of himself. And three, he pulled the trigger. If anyone can plausibly explain away these three immutable certainties, I’m all ears.


  33. avatar pres stone says:

    must be nice to have friends in the right places that can call your suicide an accident so your family can still get the life insurance.

  34. avatar Hauptgefreiter says:

    Mass Media Dictionary:

    children = tyrants
    clip = magazine
    arsenal = 1 shotgun, 1 rifle, 2 handguns
    ammunition stockpile = 600 rounds
    bullet = round
    assault = semi-automatic
    cleaning = playing with

  35. avatar Shannon's Pimp says:

    Visual and physical inspection of a firearm is needed to make sure that it is unloaded. Even if someone hands you a firearm that they potentially cleared, do it again. Better safe than sorry, always…

  36. avatar WV Cycling says:

    These articles always sadden me a bit, but they do serve a good purpose of keeping me on my toes!

    I’ve had one in the chamber that was not pulled out by out WONDERFUL Kel-Tec P9’s extractor (have put 3,500 rds though it?) and didn’t visually inspect the bore directly, trusting everything worked how it was supposed to. when trying to remove the takedown pin.

    That is when I saw the round still in there. It is easy to become complacent. while I just racked the slide two or three times, without honing my eyes to that area, I did follow all other rules, so I was still safe, thank goodness.

  37. Cleaning is an event where a certain Dirty Harry line always applies: “Do you feel lucky?” If you do, go ahead and trust your confidence that the chamber is empty.

  38. avatar Ragnarredbeard says:

    Reminds of when I was an instructor in the Air Force. We had a trainee commit “suicide”. The EMS guys found him in his room with a plastic bag over his head and his unit in his hand. I guess they couldn’t tell his parents that it was autoerotic asphyxia so they went with suicide.

    Of course, it being the Air Force, the instructor staff had to sit thru multiple suicide awareness briefs as a result. If the kid had lived I would have beat his ass.

  39. avatar PeterW says:

    I always thought “easily discharged” was a feature not a danger.

  40. avatar Jason says:

    Pull the trigger to clean, glock. Did it say anything about cleaning products out? I would think the gun would be covered in his prints, it’s HIS carry piece.

  41. Darwinism at its finest. I wonder if Hillary would be on the same page as this crap? No double standards put DC politicians on Obamacare and SS
    Thanks for your support and vote.Pass the word.

    1. avatar Chip Bennett says:

      You do realize, don’t you, that dropping that URL at the end of every one of your comments constitutes spam?

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