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Back in the day, the investigation into a police officer’s firearms-related suicide would inevitably conclude that the officer died “cleaning his gun.” In other words, it was an accident. At least officially. That way the cop’s widow could collect his pension and his peers were free to forget the fact that a fellow officer topped himself. Did I say “back in the day”? It still happens. And the coverup doesn’t just extend to law enforcement officers. The media continues to report negligent discharges and suicides as gun cleaning accidents without subjecting the claim to serious scrutiny. To wit this [via] . . .

An 18-year-old Littleton man lost his life in a shooting mishap in his family’s home Wednesday.

According to Warren County Sheriff Johnny Williams, Joshua Adam Curl [above] was accidently shot in the head with a 12-gauge shot gun while his brother was servicing, cleaning and repairing the gun.

It may have gone down that way. But it’s hard to see how—especially if you add servicing and repairing to cleaning.

It’s theoretically possible to somehow leave a shell in a shotgun, negligently point the firearm at someone’s head and accidentally pull the trigger. But the odds of violating three of the four gun safety rules are less than the odds of running into Oriha Zarien at Costco.

Again, I’m not saying it doesn’t happen (the ND). It does. And no matter how Joshua Curl lost his life, our sympathies are with his family. But it’s also worth reminding the media that they shouldn’t be afraid to tell the truth about guns or those who use them.

At the very least, whenever a journalist hears the gun cleaning explanation for a firearms-related death he or she should immediately consider the possibility that everything may  not be exactly as it seems.

And while the gun cleaning meme may seem a harmless way to shelter the bereaved from scrutiny and “unnecessary” pain, the result makes guns seems more dangerous than they are. Which hurts all of us, at least in the long run.

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  1. Good post. Notable patterns of alcoholism, steroid abuse, divorce, and suicide are very much the “dirty secrets” of the American police community.

  2. I think you could make the point without slurring any specific person. Have you done any investigation to determine the veracity of the reports or are you just making stuff up? If the latter, then it is irresponsible and shameful to so slander this family with the accusation of foul play or murder with nothing to back it up.

    If you’re not going to do any investigation into the matter, then it might be best to be more generic in discussing whether some accidents are murder. Not only does this subject you to a possible risk of libel.

  3. I’ve been wondering all my years where these women hang out. Right after church with the wife and kids this morning I am going to head over to the local Costco ! RF you are the best !!

  4. It sounds like you’re using the Mikeb method of determining the truth, you know, the one you disparage so much when I apply it to DGUs.

    What it amounts to is there are fewer accidental deaths and more suicides than reported.

    Very good, now you’re using your head instead of just accepting the stats. Are you going to come around on the DGUs too?

    • The mikeyb method of determining the truth. Make it up as you go along. Why do I keep hearing rumors about your criminal past mikey? Maybe it’s time for some of that truth you keep speaking about. It would maybe help your credibility to address these rumors.

    • MikeB,

      This is an anecdotal story, not a statement of fact. Setting out cleaning gear and then having a shooting may be either a negligent discharge (what the press calls accidental – “the gun went off), or it may be an intentional suicide.

      I agree that it’s insensitive to the family to cite them as an example, but the facts are that a shooting occurred. What is not known is whether the shooting was an intentional suicide or negligence. Either way, the media tends to blame the firearm instead of the human holding the trigger. It’s clearly irrational, and a parallel would be blaming the car for an auto accident instead of blaming the distracted, drunk, and / or negligent driver.

      • People do it with cars all the time. Its one of the reasons I love the Car/Gun metaphor. “No officer, I’m not sure what happened, I think the accelerator got stuck – yeah that’s what happened?” “No officer, the steering wheel just got yanked out of my hand.” “Officer, I was just pulling out of the parking-lot onto an empty street, and suddenly that motorcycle appeared out of thin air.”
        I was BS then, its BS now – people do not like to admit fault – their own or anyone close to them.

        The media and police should do due diligence, and call it like it looks. Anything else is a disservice to all.

    • Mikeb method of delusional logic, refuse to acknowledge anything that doesnt support your fantasy. Since the above doesnt do that, havent dropped that 1,000 floors down below the gutter to use your methods Mikeb.

  5. I’m only really curious about the detailed specificity of the activity. His brother wasn’t cleaning the shotgun, he was “servicing, cleaning, and repairing” the shotgun. I can’t think of a situation in which I can visualize a family member (or a Sheriff) spelling it out in that way to a reporter. “Cleaning the gun,” sure. “Working on the gun,” sure. “Fooling around with the gun,” OK. But “servicing, cleaning, and repairing the gun?” I just don’t see it.

  6. I thought RF was suggesting the report is covering-up a likely suicide, possibly to save further pain and embarrassment to the grieving family, but skewing the gun death figures in the process. Whether the inadvertent result of a good intention, or an insidiously deceptive practice is not readily discernible….possibly another discussion?
    The circumstances in this case (and many others like it) just defy possibility and logical circumstances…..”methinks something is rotten in Denmark”.

  7. If it helps a widow (and children) to keep her dead police officer husband’s pension then I do not have an issue with the investigation concluding it was an accident. I usually believe in honorably stating the truth and facts yet there are exceptions.

    If an issue is not worthy of being thoroughly and professionally investigated for the facts and truth by real adult journalists then the piece might often be considered not worthy of being published and read.

      • No it is not ever morally ok. There are many groups and causes I’m sympathetic with and I do not support fraud to support them. I would also not support fraud in the case of police brutality, murder, and corruption. This suicide case would be an exception.

        • With all respect I take exception to your exception. The second you give ground now you have to quantify the exceptions – how close to retirement, did he have kids, does the wife work, etc..
          The bottom line is every human being should have the right to check out how and when they choose, BUT the contracts they’ve entered into, service/pension, life-insurance, and such, can and should still hold them accountable for that choice.

    • Shame on you. Special privilege is accorded to police families, so that others who are sworn to uphold the law may help them commit fraud??? Shame on you!

  8. Negligent discharge “while cleaning” is the firearms equivalent of accidentally “slipping in the shower” and getting the shampoo bottle lodged in your rectum.

  9. I came across this article a few weeks ago and I just have not been able to forget it. But before I say why I will say the only person’s comment I agree with is Skyler. So here it goes. You sir, the author of this article, should not have used this family as an example that the media is covering up suicides and murders. When I read this article it made me sick to my stomach, angry and I just wanted to cry. You should have done more research before you used the family as an example. Because it was not suicide nor murder. It was a freak accident, a tragedy, that caused pain to an entire community. I also know that if any of them stumbled across the article as I did they would feel the same way I felt when I read it and the comments. I say this because I know the family personally and I knew Josh. I have known him since I was six years old. I know the whole story of what happened that night and it breaks my heart that this tragedy was used as an example of this sort. I know you were doing your job when you wrote this article but you did not do all your research and you did not do it well. I did not comment to offend anyone, I just wanted to clear his name. Because this article portrayed his family and him as something they are not. Yes, it did sound suspicious but it was just a freak accident. So to those who commented you have the right to your own opinion and I do not fault you for your suspicions but you had it all wrong. If anyone sees this comment do not ask what happened. I just commented to defend the family and a friend whom I dearly loved and always will. Thanks.

    • I agree with Jessica you sir are a sick arrogant pathetic crook I personally knew this family and let me tell you one thing this was no murder cover up it was a freak accident and you do not have the right to disgrace this family in such a manner.


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