Deputy who shot self during training is recovering well

June 18, 2014 7:06 am  • 

HELENA — The law enforcement officer who accidentally shot himself in the right thigh during a training exercise at Fort Harrison May 28 is back to work and recovering well.

Missoula County Deputy Sheriff Jonathan Peter Laurence Stineford is working “light duty” while he recovers from the injury, Missoula County Sheriff Carl Ibsen said.

“It’s a little bit uncomfortable, but he’s walking around and doing good,” Ibsen said. “(He suffered) minor damage, minor injury when you compare it to what it could have been.”

Stineford and a number of other deputies were participating in a live firearms training exercise at Fort Harrison when he accidentally shot himself in the leg around 11 a.m. The drills were training quick reaction times for drawing and shooting at targets with handguns.

Ibsen said his department is conducting an investigation into what may have caused the accident, but it appears there was “no functional problem with the weapon.”

“We’re trying to figure it out,” Ibsen said. “There’s always the possibility that, as it was coming out (of the holster) the officer’s finger pulled it.”

Maj. Tim Crowe, a spokesman for the Montana Army National Guard, said that because the incident occurred at a National Guard range, the National Guard will conduct an investigation as well. As of Monday, however, Crowe did not have any new information to report.

According to reports from the Lewis and Clark County Sheriff’s Office — which were made the day of the incident and obtained through a records request by the Independent Record to the Lewis and Clark County Attorney’s Office — Stineford’s shirt may be to blame.

“He said he thought a portion of his shirt may have been caught inside the handgun’s trigger guard when he holstered the pistol, possibly causing the weapon to discharge when he pressed the release button on the holster,” the report said.

The Glock 9 mm pistol and Blackhawk “Serpa” holster were both in fine working condition, the report said, but the report noted there was “oil/dark colored residue on the right lower section of the shirt (near where his holster likely would have been.)”

When the weapon was discharged, the bullet traveled down his leg and lodged into the top of Stineford’s right kneecap, requiring surgery for its removal, the report said, but avoided any major blood vessels or nerves.

In order to get Stineford to St. Peter’s Hospital — located across town from the fort — fellow law enforcement officers loaded him into an unmarked SUV and transported him to the intersection of Euclid and Henderson, where he was transferred to an ambulance.

That mode of transportation was a precaution to ensure Stineford could receive medical treatment as quickly as possible, Ibsen said.

“It’s a situation where you can cut down a few minutes on the response time of the ambulance by meeting it somewhere in between,” he said. “It just seems to make pretty good sense.”

Stineford has worked for the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force — a Drug Enforcement Administration operation — in Missoula, and Ibsen had “no concerns” about Stineford’s ability to properly operate his weapon and safely conduct his duties.

“A number of years ago, one officer did almost the exact same thing during a statewide competition,” he said of the shooting.

“He’s a hard worker. He’s very, very self-motivated,” Ibsen said of Stineford. “He’s a great officer.”