A certified gun instructor who accidentally fired a .45-caliber handgun before a class in a Stillwater school cafeteria could face misdemeanor charges.
None of the eight students and parents who were at the Salem Lutheran School waiting for class to start about 6:10 p.m. last Thursday were injured in the incident, which is being reviewed by the city attorney, according to a police report. Witnesses said the instructor, following proper gun safety procedure, had been careful not to point the muzzle in their direction, even though he believed the weapon had not been loaded.
The contrite instructor, a 76-year-old Cottage Grove man, told an investigating police officer and a Department of Natural Resources officer the next day that he had accidentally discharged the half-cocked Colt 1911 handgun and accepted responsibility for any charges as well as damage to the cafeteria wall, where the bullet had lodged. "You gentlemen can't imagine the embarrassment I feel towards myself for what took place," he told the officers.
According to the police report, as the class was about to start, the instructor had several firearms laid out on a table, including two 1911 handguns, one of them stripped down but both cased. A second instructor noticed the handgun was partially cocked and the first instructor began pointing out the weapon's various safeties, the report said. Then the gun went off, lodging the bullet in the wall away from the people.
Discharging a firearm within city limits is an ordinance violation in Stillwater, but the police report notes that, based on the instructor's account and that of witnesses, the firing of the gun was unintentional.