Wash. PD reprimanded firearms instructor, 2 other officers for inadvertently firing their guns in 2023 By:

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By Becca MostThe News Tribune (Tacoma, Wash.)

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LAKEWOOD, Wash. — Last year three officers with the Lakewood Police Department, including a senior officer and firearms instructor, accidentally fired their service weapons when they weren’t paying attention, internal investigation records show.

One officer was texting when he accidentally fired his gun through the wall of his condo. Another officer was showing off his gun to a coworker when he accidentally fired it through his patrol car windshield. A third accidentally shot a hole through the hood of his patrol car when he exited his vehicle while it was still moving and lost his balance.

No one was injured, and officers found to have violated department policy received written reprimands and additional training, according to public records obtained by The News Tribune.

According to Lakewood Police Department’s 2023 annual report, which was presented to the Lakewood City Council by the police chief earlier this year, there were eight internal investigations and 10 allegations of misconduct during 2023, including one case that was exonerated, six that were sustained, one that was not sustained and two that were unfounded.

In requesting details about those allegations, The News Tribune found five internal investigations of misconduct that were sustained, as well as one allegation of misconduct that was unfounded, two allegations not sustained and one allegation exonerated.

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Police Chief Patrick Smith told The News Tribune in May that some investigations began in 2022 and finished in 2023, which might explain some discrepancies between the public records The News Tribune received compared to the annual investigation report numbers.

If a case is sustained, it means there was sufficient evidence to justify the allegation of misconduct occurred, Smith said. An unfounded conclusion means the investigation revealed the incident or allegations didn’t occur. If an investigation was not sustained, that means there was insufficient evidence to prove or disprove the allegation, he said. Exonerated means the incident did occur, but the conduct and performance of the officers was found to be lawful or proper, Smith said.

None of the officers who were found to have violated police policy wanted to talk with a News Tribune reporter. Smith said he couldn’t go into details about any of the officers’ history of disciplinary action, but said the officers were not the subject of any prior Lakewood Police Department investigations to his knowledge. The Internal Affairs Bureau receives, processes and supervises internal affairs investigations for the Lakewood Police Department.

Smith said the Lakewood Police Department doesn’t have a major disciplinary problem and said they work hard to do a good job for the citizens of Lakewood. He said none of the officers with sustained misconduct are problem employees.

“We always want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to train our officers in the best ways possible, that we’re giving them the tools they need,” Smith said. “But also, when things happen, that we’re going to address it and make sure that we’re taking whatever corrective action is necessary.”

In 2022 there were six investigations into seven allegations of misconduct. Of those, five were found to be sustained, one unfounded and one exonerated. In 2021 the Lakewood Police Department conducted five investigations into 10 allegations of misconduct. Of those seven were sustained, two were unfounded and one was not sustained. Information about these cases was not immediately available.

As of 2023 the Lakewood Police Department had 100 commissioned police officers, two community service officers, two court compliance officers, two animal control officers, three code enforcement officers and 10 civilian support staff, one of the largest departments in the state serving over 60,000 people, according to the department’s 2023 annual report.

Officers responded to 32,921 calls for service last year, the report said. The police operating budget was $26.85 million in 2023 and $27.1 million in 2024, according to the city’s biennial budget.

Deborah Jacobs is a member of the Washington Coalition for Police Accountability with 30 years in the police-accountability field. Jacobs told The News Tribune on Thursday she’s heard of accidental firearms discharges happening at police departments in Washington and other states.

A frequency of accidental discharges in any department raises questions about professionalism when handling weapons and if officers get enough firearms-safety training, especially at nighttime, Jacobs said.

It’s also common to see the number of sustained misconduct violations in police departments be very low compared to the number of allegations of misconduct, she said. That can happen for several reasons, including bias that favors police or in cases where the evidence to support misconduct isn’t strong enough to conclude a finding, Jacobs said.

Senior instructor accidentally fires weapon

In one case last year, senior patrol officer and firearms instructor Brian Danley was found to have violated an “attention to duty” policy and an authorized-weapons policy when he accidentally fired his personal gun through the windshield of his patrol car on April 2, 2023.

According to investigation reports, Danley was showing his new handgun to another officer while parked behind the station near the end of their graveyard shift when he reloaded it and accidentally fired one round through the windshield. The bullet hit a parked department surveillance van and bounced off, embedding itself into a piece of wood stored behind the van, according to the case report. No one was injured, and Danley reported the incident.

On April 10, 2023, Danley told investigators that at the time of the accidental discharge he was tired after nearly finishing his regular patrol shift of 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. He said he was distracted by conversation when he inserted the magazine into his gun and discharged it. Danley told investigators he was upset with himself afterwards.

During the course of the investigation it was learned that Danley had not submitted his personally owned duty gun to the rangemaster for inspection and approval prior to using it for work, as required by department policy. After the investigation, Danley’s weapon was inspected and approved.

Danley has been with the Lakewood Police Department since 2007. He started his law enforcement career in 2002 and worked for Algona Police Department before transferring to the Seattle Police Department , the case report said. In addition to being a patrol officer, he has been a member of the Lakewood Police Department’s Gang Unit for 10 years and has been the department’s firearms instructor for three years.

According to the case report, Danley also received firearms training from Seattle Police Department , was a firearms instructor in the military for 22 years and was a marksman instructor in the Marine Corps for three years.

“Ofc. Danley is a senior Officer and a Firearms Instructor, so he clearly understands firearms safety rules and failed to follow them in this incident,” assistant police chief John Unfred wrote to Smith May 1, 2023 in a memo.

Smith confirmed Danley is still with the department. As of 2023 he was paid $134,606, as listed in a Lakewood employee salary database published by The News Tribune. He was issued a written reprimand for the incident.

Gun fired while texting

Another Lakewood police officer received a written reprimand and additional training for accidentally firing his gun while texting with the other hand, according to investigation reports.

On Aug. 26, 2023 officer Daniel Pyon was preparing for his morning shift when he accidentally fired his gun through the wall of his DuPont condo. According to investigations, Pyon was removing his duty weapon from his safe but was distracted by texting on his phone and fired a 9 mm round through his wall and into the shared wall of his neighbor.

Pyon told investigators he checked on his neighbor, who told police she was uninjured and showed them where the bullet lodged in the wall. He told investigators he was in shock from what happened and didn’t remember placing his finger on the trigger.

Pyon said he immediately placed the firearm back in his safe and contacted the patrol sergeant on duty, who later told Smith he was going to ask the DuPont Police Department to investigate and clear the scene, according to investigation reports.

“As an officer with six years of experience and a member of our [Special Response Team], I expect better judgment when handling a loaded firearm,” Unfred wrote to Smith Oct. 10, 2023 in a memo. “This incident could have easily injured or killed someone in his home or his neighbor’s.”

Smith said Pyon has been with the department for eight years and is still with the department. He made a total of $148,970 in 2023, as listed in a Lakewood employee salary database published by The News Tribune.

Gun fired into squad car during traffic stop

Another officer received a written reprimand and remedial training after he accidentally fired his gun last year as he attempted to pin a suspect vehicle with his patrol car, investigative reports show.

Officer Jarrod Beauchamp was found to have negligently discharged his service weapon into the hood of his patrol car Oct. 21, 2023 during an early-morning, high-risk stop at 2416 96th St. S. in Lakewood near several apartment complexes, according to the case report. The incident occurred about 3 a.m.

Beauchamp told investigators he tried to pin his vehicle on the passenger side of the suspect vehicle and exited his patrol car, duty pistol in hand, while his vehicle was still in motion. Beauchamp told investigators he was unsure what caused his pistol to go off and wasn’t sure if he lost his balance or if the vehicle rocking to a stop caused him to pull the trigger.

In the report, Beauchamp said he didn’t recall if he held his pistol at the low-ready position or if his finger was inside the trigger guard. He told investigators it was not oriented directly at the suspect vehicle. Beauchamp said he has been trained not to place his finger inside the trigger guard and to keep it off the trigger until he is on target and has made a conscious decision to shoot.

No one was injured, and no other property was damaged, the report said. Following the discharge, Beauchamp told investigators, he notified dispatch and continued on with the high-risk stop, looking for the round after the stop concluded.

In a memo from Unfred to Smith on Nov. 3, 2023, Unfred questioned Beauchamp’s vehicle placement and the benefit of him pinning the rear of the vehicle because the suspect vehicle could have continued driving.

Upon reviewing Beauchamp’s body-worn camera video, Unfred said Beauchamp was seen talking on the radio, replacing his hand mike, placing his vehicle, parking his vehicle, opening his door and drawing his weapon with his left hand while still gripping the steering wheel.

“All of this occurs within 10 seconds or less,” Unfred wrote. “I believe Ofc. Beauchamp could benefit from some coaching on slowing down during a high risk stop so that all of the critical steps (notifying Dispatch, putting his car in park, opening his door, drawing his weapon, etc.) are done efficiently, but safely. As Ofc. Beauchamp has approximately a year on our Department, I believe he could benefit from this additional coaching.”

Beauchamp started with the Lakewood Police Department in 2022 and is a patrol officer working the 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. graveyard shift, the report said. As of last October, Beauchamp did not hold any additional duties with the department, completed all firearms training required to graduate from the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Center Basic Law Enforcement Academy and kept his monthly firearms training with the department up to date.

He was paid $117,483 total in 2023, as listed in a Lakewood employee salary database published by The News Tribune.

Citations for obscene speech, missing work

Other allegations of misconduct did not involve firearms.

A Lakewood police officer received a year-long deferred eight-hour suspension in 2023 after he was found to have violated department personal conduct and prohibited speech policies in 2022, according to investigation records obtained by The News Tribune.

Investigation records show that officer John Babcock used profanity against a recruit at the Washington State Justice Training Center on Nov. 15, 2022 and loudly used profanity with a CJTC recruit officer.

Babcock told investigators he pulled a recruit aside to talk to him about a perceived lack of proper push-up technique with the intent to help him perform better. He said the recruit was disrespectful to him during the encounter and used profanity, which prompted an argument. Babcock later ran into the recruit’s officer and got into another profanity-laced argument before he slammed his office door, documents say.

The recruit officer told investigators, “Officer Babcock was irate and what he was saying was laced with disparaging remarks about the CJTC” and there were “concerns the situation could become physical because of his demeanor and how angry Officer Babcock was,” according to a memo sent from acting assistant chief Jeff Alwine to then-Police Chief Mike Zaro Dec. 13, 2023. A witness told investigators after the incidents Babcock slammed his office door shut so hard it “shook the office,” the memo said.

Babcock admitted he made comments that involved profane language, investigation reports show. He didn’t dispute the majority of the allegations made by his fellow CJTC coworkers, the memo said. Babcock said he should have handled the incident in a more professional manner and doesn’t feel like anyone should have felt in fear of violence, according to the memo.

In a memo sent to Babcock Jan. 18, 2023, Zaro said the suspension takes into account the facts of the incident and the negative impact it had on the reputation of the Lakewood Police Department . The suspension was deferred for one calendar year. If there were no other violations of similar nature within that time frame, the suspension would be revoked, he said. If there were any other violations of a similar nature, the suspension would be applied, as well as any discipline that arises from the new incident, Zaro said.

Smith told The News Tribune the suspension was later revoked because Babcock did not receive any other related discipline.

Babcock has been with the department 18 years and is still in his position, Smith said. He was paid $144,354 in 2023, as listed in a Lakewood employee salary database published by The News Tribune.

Another officer was suspended for one day without pay last year after failing to show up for three consecutive shifts.

Officer Jeremy Keisler was found to have a sustained violation of a department attention-to-duty policy after he failed to show up for three consecutive graveyard shifts and took paid time off for a family camping trip instead, according to investigative reports.

Four months before, Keisler submitted a request for time off for July 12-16 Unfred had informed the department they would not approve paid time off requests for July 15 and 16 due to the need for significant staffing for the Lakewood Summerfest and JBLM Air Show that weekend.

According to a memo from Unfred sent to Smith on Sept. 1, 2023, Keisler knew his entire leave might not be covered and he’d have to work any shifts not filled. Keisler however “gave unreasonably short notice (2 minutes prior) or did not respond at all when he did not show up for work” July 13, 14 and 15, according to the memo.

“He admits he had his cell phone with service and did check his emails during his trip so his explanation is wholly insufficient,” Unfred said. “Ultimately, Keisler ignored multiple directives from superiors, did what he wanted and caused an undue burden on his fellow Officers as several had to be held over to cover his absence.”

Smith told The News Tribune Keisler has been with the department nine years and is still an officer. He made $127,418 in 2023, as listed in a Lakewood employee salary database published by The News Tribune.

Unsubstantiated claims of sexual assault, excessive force

The News Tribune found four Lakewood Police Department investigations last year that didn’t result in sustained misconduct.

— Allegations that one or more Lakewood police officers sexually assaulted an arrestee prior to taking him to jail were found to be unfounded after looking at body-worn camera and in-car video footage, conducting interviews and a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner’s medical examination. Footage contradicted the man’s claim of assault and also contradicted “basic elements of his interaction with the officers,” which led investigators to believe the man was suffering from an unknown mental health condition, investigation documents said.

— In another case investigators determined multiple Lakewood police officers did not use excessive force when arresting a 16-year-old shoplifting suspect. According to the case report, multiple officers tried to restrain the teenager, including hooking his legs, pushing him forward and pinning his head to the ground with a knee. The report described the teen’s resistance level as “active resistance but not assaultive resistance,” and the officer with his knee on the teenager’s head said he described the pressure as using “half his body weight.”

— One case that alleged a Lakewood police officer stole $82 from a woman’s purse after she was detained for shoplifting was ruled by investigators to be not sustained.

— Another investigation examined allegations of a conflict of interest and witness interference against an investigator with the Lakewood Police Department who was investigating another officer for misconduct violations after he was charged with fourth-degree domestic-violence assault in 2021. The unnamed investigator failed to disclose that he was having an affair with the same woman the officer he was investigating was having an affair with. He also sent messages to the woman that the Lakewood Police Independent Guild believed were meant to persuade her not to testify in the arbitration because it would expose publicly his ‘private’ relationship with her, investigation documents said. Ultimately evidence didn’t support the allegation of a conflict of interest or witness interference, but the situation did create a perception problem among staff and the investigator should have erred on the side of over-disclosure, according to investigation reports.

This story was originally published July 3, 2024 , 5:00 AM.

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