Pasco SRO terminated following weapon discharge in middle school cafeteria

Pasco County

WESLEY CHAPEL, Fla. (WFLA) – A school resource officer has been fired months after his weapon discharged in the cafeteria of a Pasco County middle school.

The incident happened on April 30 at Weightman Middle School in Wesley Chapel. No one was injured. Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco announced Wednesday the officer was terminated for “conduct unbecoming and mishandling of a weapon.”

“You can see in the school security camera, he is standing against a wall, there’s children everywhere. His actions with his weapon caused it to fire,” Sheriff Nocco said. “I just want to thank God that no kids were hurt. Nobody in that lunchroom was hurt.”

Sheriff Nocco says the investigation into the incident revealed there was nothing wrong with the gun that fired. The Pasco Sheriff’s Office and Florida Department of Law Enforcement both conducted tests on the weapon to confirm that, he says.

“One student who was in there made a comment to our detectives that he has seen the former member do this in the past, using his actions to manipulate the gun up and down out of its holster,” Sheriff Nocco said. “The former member (also) admitted he has a bad habit of fidgeting with his gun.”

The sheriff says his members are trained to properly handle weapons, adding that the fired officer’s actions are “nothing that we train.”

“You should not be utilizing your weapon in that manner and putting those kids at risk,” Nocco said. “His actions of using his hands, fidgeting with the gun, manipulating it in a manner that caused it to discharge – those actions are what caused the conduct unbecoming that put those people at risk around him.”

Nocco explained during a news conference the weapon was seen on security footage coming in and out of the officer’s holster.

“As for what actually caused it to go off, that’s still unknown. But his actions are what caused it, whether it was his finger that was in there or if he had some other artifact – like keys or something he had in there – when it slipped back down,” Nocco said. “But it ultimately comes down to if you leave the gun in the holster, it’s not going to go off.”

“The gun was functioning properly. What was improper were the actions of the former member to manipulate it, play with it, pull it in and out of its holster,” the sheriff added. “Then when he put it back down…something caused that gun to go off but that something is his actions.”

During his news conference, Nocco clarified the school resource officer in question never returned to work after the incident. He has been on administrative leave since April.

The case was presented to the state attorney’s office for culpable negligence. Sheriff Nocco says the state attorney decided not to criminally charge the officer, saying the matter was best handled administratively.

“Know that we will handle these matters the proper way and investigate them the proper way,” Nocco said. “And people will be held accountable for their actions.”

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