Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Man ‘complacent’ in accidental shooting
By Paul Shockley
Free Press Staff Writer
GRAND JUNCTION — A sporting goods store employee and ex-cop told investigators he was complacent when he failed to check if a bullet remained inside a rifle, which accidentally fired and wounded a coworker.
Richard Bacher, 56, said he “thought either Michael or Jerry would have already checked,” according to a search warrant affidavit drafted by an investigator with the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office.
Michael Dean, 47, of Loma, took his .243-caliber rifle in for upgrades Saturday to Jerry’s Outdoor Sports, 507 30 Road.
Jerry Stehman is the store’s owner.
According to the affidavit, Dean first handed the weapon to Stehman.
Stehman told investigators, “he did not open the firearm to see if it was loaded with ammunition, as he should have per Jerry’s Outdoor Sports policy.”
Stehman then gave the rifle to Bacher.
“Richard said he set the rifle upside down in the cradle holding devise and installed the fore stock,” the affidavit said. “Richard turned the rifle right side up in the cradle holding devise and installed the hammer extension.
“Richard said, while the rifle was still in the holding devise, he pulled the hammer back to test the extension.
“Richard said the hammer must have slipped from the grip of his thumb and fell forward, causing the rifle to fire,” according to the affidavit.
Kenny Franklin, 53, of Grand Junction, a fellow employee at the store, was wounded once in the abdomen.
Franklin was still listed in serious condition Tuesday at St. Mary’s Hospital.
Bacher was chief of police in Delta roughly a year before resigning last September.
He was with the Grand Junction Police Department from October 1976 to September 2002.
The rifle’s owner, Dean, told investigators shortly after the accident the weapon involved was a Thompson-brand rifle, which is made to have interchangeable barrels.
He’d recently fitted the rifle with a .243-caliber barrel.
Dean said he put a live round in the rifle while at home, as a test.
“The firearm did not eject the live round upon his testing and he closed the firearm, leaving the live round inside,” the affidavit said.
Dean said he forgot the rifle was loaded when he brought it inside Jerry’s.
“He said he did not remember the rifle was loaded until hearing (the) shot,” the affidavit said.
Dean, a regular customer at the store, said he was at Jerry’s on Saturday because the wrong fore stock had been installed on the weapon.
An investigator, meanwhile, noted an alleged strong odor of marijuana “emitting” from Dean, as he was being interviewed.
The affidavit said Dean refused to allow investigators to search his truck — the vehicle was impounded at the sheriff’s office.
Sheriff’s spokeswoman Heather Benjamin on Monday said an investigation into the shooting may take weeks.