By Joe Beck
A Winchester police officer whose gun discharged on a school bus Monday as he sat next to a special needs student is back on duty, department officials said Wednesday.
Lauren Cummings, police community relations specialist, said investigators have determined the gun fired accidentally through no fault of the officer. He had been placed on paid administrative leave and returned to duty Tuesday.
"I think it's safe to say this type of incident was unforeseen," Cummings said, adding, "it was determined that the officer had done everything right."
None of those on board the bus - the officer, bus driver, bus aide, and four special needs students - were injured in the incident.
Police say the officer was summoned at 8:34 a.m. to help the bus driver after school officials reported an unruly student on board who was trying to unbuckle the driver and pull the radio out of the driver's hand.
The officer boarded the bus, calmed down the disruptive student and was accompanying him to his destination at Daniel Morgan Middle School when the gun went off. Police say the student and officer were seated next to each other when the student reached into the officer's holster and squeezed the trigger with his finger. The gun discharged through a seat and into the floor, according to police.
Cummings said police are continuing to review the design and operation of the holster, a new model given to all officers about six months ago.
The holster was withdrawn after Monday's incident and replaced with the department's older holsters while the review continues.
Department officials have contacted the holster's manufacturer as part of their review. They have refused to disclose the manufacturer's name or the model of the gun discharged, citing concerns about officer safety.
Cummings confirmed that one officer had previously been concerned about someone being able to reach a finger into the holster too easily, the same issue raised by the school bus discharge.
"That concern was brought up when the new holsters were issued," Cummings said. "That concern was reviewed, and the officers' safety was reviewed, and the holsters were kept in place after that evaluation."
Cummings added: "It's hard to find any new pieces of equipment in any industry that is not called into question by someone."
Cummings said officers probably willl receive more training in using the new holster if department officials decide to reintroduce it.
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or firstname.lastname@example.org