A police officer whose gun accidentally fired at a youth baseball tournament in Steamboat Springs last month is scheduled to appear in court Tuesday to face multiple criminal charges.
Cheyenne, Wyoming police officer Markum King faces one misdemeanor charge of reckless endangerment and another misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct for what occurred June 15.
He is the second law enforcement officer to face criminal charges for an accidental discharge in Colorado in June. His case came two weeks after FBI agent Chase Bishop’s gun went off June 2 as he was dancing at a Denver nightclub.
The round from Bishop’s gun struck bystander Tom Reddington in the leg, but Bishop was not immediately arrested and was released to an FBI supervisor and allowed to fly home to Washington, D.C.
He was not criminally charged with second degree assault until June 12, well after the incident. The handling of the case prompted criticism of the Denver Police Department which says the way the case was addressed is now under review.
The Steamboat Springs case was handled completely differently according to police body camera video, records, interviews and other documents obtained by CBS4. King said he was using a Techna Clip to fasten his pistol to his pants.
A Techna Clip is a minimalist device used to carry a weapon in a concealed manner. King told officers as he was sitting in the bleachers watching the game, he went to pull up his pants and his gun fired.
“Nicks me a little bit. I’m cleaned up. I’m good to go. That’s essentially it man,” King told arriving Steamboat Springs officers. “I’m a fellow ‘blue guy,’” King told arriving officers. “I work in Cheyenne. I feel like s— violating the cardinal rule.”
The bullet grazed King, but did not cause serious injuries and nobody else was hit.
King was cooperative and told officers he had a few sips of a mixed drink about half an hour before the gun fired. A Steamboat Springs police sergeant who arrived asked King, ”Would you go to work 30 or 40 minutes after you had a couple of sips of whiskey? That’s the thing that is running through my mind and is worrying me about this.”
King agreed to take a portable breath test, but the results were undetectable. However within minutes of talking to him, a Steamboat Springs police told King he would be facing criminal charges and he was issued a summons.
King has not responded to several messages left by CBS4.
Chief Cory Christensen of the Steamboat Springs Police Department said a Techna Clip is “the dumbest thing you can put on a gun.” He said such clips don’t have anything protecting the trigger guard and his officers are forbidden from using them.
”Something like this is prohibited because it doesn’t cover the trigger guard. It’s unsafe because of exactly what happened. I prohibit that device for my officers for off-duty carry.”
Christensen reviewed the video from his officers body worn cameras and said he was proud of how they handled the situation.
“It doesn’t matter your profession,” said Christensen, who said his officers make charging decisions based on the law, not the individual involved.
He said he thought using a Techna Clip was a bad decision, as was drinking while carrying a firearm.
“Our policy here is if you’re going to be drinking, you don’t have a gun with you.”
Kevin Malatesta, a spokesman for the Cheyenne Police Department, told CBS4 King received disciplinary action for using an “unauthorized holster. We don’t allow our officers to use a Techna Clip. They are dangerous,” said Malatesta.
He said both the Techna Clip and the gun were King’s personal weapons. Malatesta said King has received more training and all employees of the Cheyenne Police Department have been told to refrain from using a Techna Clip. He added that his agency discourages the public from using them “because they are dangerous.”