Human error blamed in shooting by Campbell chief

By jeanne starmack


The Campbell police chief accidentally discharged a gun twice in the city building, and an internal- affairs investigation has concluded the accidents were caused by human error.

Investigator Kenneth Kotouch recommended that Chief Gus Sarigianopoulos receive additional training on the type of gun involved in the accidents, which was not the chief’s duty gun.

He also said in his report, given to Mayor Bill VanSuch this week, that Sarigianopoulos should qualify to use his duty gun.

Kotouch told The Vindicator on Friday that he was referring to a routine qualification police officers do every year.

The accidental discharges happened April 17 shortly before 1 p.m. at the police station.

Sarigianopoulos told VanSuch in a letter dated April 26 that he was attempting to clear the gun, which was pointed toward the floor, when it discharged. The letter mentions one discharge.

In the internal-affairs report, there are details of two.

The first discharge happened in the chief’s office, and the second happened in the hallway outside the dispatch room.

The gun involved was a Vietnam-era single-action Colt 1911 .45-caliber semiautomatic. It was one of three the department had recently acquired on loan from the Ohio Law Enforcement Support Office.

Campbell Officer Dave Smith, who is one of two firearms safety instructors for the department, told The Vindicator that the department can benefit from training on the single-action trigger guns because the officers are more familiar with the double-action trigger Glocks they use.

If an officer were to come across a single-action gun on the streets, they would know how to clear it, Smith said.

On the day of the accidents, the gun involved was in a cabinet in Sarigianopoulos’ office.

The chief said he wanted to get some oil for his duty gun, which was in the cabinet behind the Colt .45. As he pulled out the gun, it discharged a round into his cabinet door.

The chief, who said he was in shock that the gun discharged, took the magazine out of it. He went to two officers who were in the dispatch area at the time. He had the gun in his left hand and the magazine in the other. He said he attempted to clear the gun when it discharged again into the hallway floor. Shrapnel ricocheted into the dispatch room and hit the wall above the dispatcher’s front desk. It also ricocheted into the ceiling.

He immediately gave the gun to one of the officers, who cleared it, opened the slide and locked it. That officer called Sgt. Dave Taybus, the department’s other firearms safety instructor, who inspected the gun and put it in the department’s ammunition locker for safekeeping.

City Administrator Jack Dill and Kotouch took the gun to a certified gunsmith in Alliance. The gunsmith tested parts of the gun, test-fired the gun and disassembled it. He found no mechanical malfunctions or design flaws, and he could find no explanation for the accidental discharges.

The chief was also involved in an accidental discharge in October. That episode involved a shotgun while he was on a call with other officers for shots fired at a house on Montgomery Avenue.

Taybus checked the gun immediately and determined the safety was sticking, the chief reported in a letter to Dill.

Kotouch said Sarigianopoulos should have received his training either last Saturday or today.

Dill said the chief should not have handled the Colt .45.

“You aren’t supposed to carry a weapon unless you trained for it,” Dill said Friday. “The gun should have never been in his possession.”

VanSuch said he is still reviewing the report.

Sarigianopoulos could not be reached for comment.

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