Was Accidental Discharge by Illinois Judge a Dry-Fire Mistake?

Judge Patrick O’Shea’s Revolver

Arizona -(Ammoland.com)- It happened on 15 September, 2017. An Illinois Judge, Patrick O’Shea, 67, accidentally fired a short barreled Smith & Wesson five-shot in his apartment in Wheaton, Illinois. The bullet went through a mirror, the wall, and into the next apartment. No one was hit, and there was little property damage. He checked to see if anyone was in the apartment. There was not. He may have thought “No harm, no foul”, and proceeded to attempt to lie his way out of the problem. Big mistake. It changed his life. From dailyherald.com:

On Sept. 24, the neighbors told police they found what appeared to be a spent bullet on their living room floor. They turned over the bullet to police, along with photographs they had taken of their damaged wall.

Police reports say O’Shea gave property managers at least three excuses for the hole, including that he accidentally put a screwdriver through the wall while hanging a mirror and that his son accidentally caused the hole while using a pneumatic nail gun.

Ekl previously called the shooting an “accidental discharge of a gun” that O’Shea believed to be unloaded.

As a condition of his bond, O’Shea was ordered to turn in all his weapons, ammunition, FOID card and concealed carry permit to Wheaton police.

I have a strong suspicion that this was a dry fire accident. They happen to people who take carrying a firearm seriously, and while rare, happen often enough to take precautions so they do not happen to you. The common situation goes something like this:

A person is dry firing a firearm (People who do dry firing tend to be serious about maintaining proficiency with their firearm).

They decide to stop dry firing and load their carry gun.

At this precise moment, they are distracted. Perhaps by a telephone or other item that demands immediate action without leaving the area.

The distraction stops. They consider – where was I?-

The memory of dry firing comes up.

They pick up the firearms, aim it, and … blam!

If they are lucky, no one is injured. Many televisions have given their lives for the sake of dry firing.   In the Judge’s case, he lost months of income, was lambasted in the media, and was criminally charged.  Five months later, another judge, in another county, dismissed the charge against him because it did not meet the legal requirements of the law. From chicagotribune.com:

A DuPage County judge who fired a bullet through his apartment wall and into a unit next door was acquitted Friday of misdemeanor reckless conduct charges.

The case against Patrick O’Shea was tossed out at the midpoint of trial by Kane County Judge Keith Johnson. The judge agreed with O’Shea’s attorney, Terry Ekl, that prosecutors had failed to meet their legal burden of proof and filed a complaint against O’Shea that was legally deficient.

“There was no evidence that there was anyone even in the building when the gun went off, so it could not be reckless conduct, and he should have never been charged with reckless conduct,” Ekl said afterward.

The judge was alone in his Wheaton apartment in September when he fired the snub-nosed revolver and the round penetrated a mirror and went through the wall.

It is the mirror that makes dry firing a likely culprit.

If you wish to avoid this type of life-changing accident, here are things you should do when dry firing:

Unload and load in a separate location from where you will be dry firing.

Aim at something that will stop the bullets you normally carry. A fireplace or a bullet-resistant vest can work.

Create a simple ritual before dry firing: Say unloaded, unloaded, unloaded.

When you reload, say: Loaded, Loaded, Loaded.

These simple steps can prevent a tragedy or the sort of life-changing accident Judge Patrick O’Shea experienced.

These incidents tend to happen to people who are serious about being proficient.

People who read this article tend to be serious. Follow the rules above, and avoid dry firing accidents.

©2018 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.

Link to Gun Watch

About Dean Weingarten:Dean Weingarten

Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of constitutional carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and recently retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.