Cop forgets rifle on trunk of patrol car

Jun 29 2011 - 11:37am

SEATTLE -- Everybody's done it.

You place an item on top of a car only to remember later -- after you or someone else has driven off.

But when the forgetful individual is a Seattle police officer and the item is a semi-automatic rifle, it's more than a little embarrassing. It's also the focus of an internal investigation.

Seattle police spokesman Sgt. Sean Whitcomb conceded Tuesday it was "very embarrassing" that a semi-automatic rifle was left on the trunk lid of a police cruiser in downtown Seattle on Monday. Police are now trying to find out how it happened.

"The fact of the matter is that a police rifle was left on a car in public and that is unacceptable," said Whitcomb. "It's very embarrassing and it shouldn't have happened."

According to two sources with knowledge of the incident, it began when one officer was inside the secure parking garage at the West Precinct and unloaded his equipment from a police cruiser. The officer placed the rifle on the trunk of a nearby patrol car.

That officer, identified by sources as acting Sgt. Bill Collins, forgot about the rifle and walked off.

Another officer, identified as Lt. Deanna Nollette, then went into the garage and got into the patrol vehicle and drove off without realizing the rifle was on the trunk lid, sources said.

The patrol car was parked a few blocks away from the West Precinct in front of the Roosevelt Hotel on Seventh Avenue around 9 p.m. Monday when at least two people spotted the rifle on the unattended vehicle.

Nick Gonzalez snapped a picture of the unsecured weapon and flagged down a couple of nearby bicycle officers.

Around the same time, according to Whitcomb, a second witness noticed the rifle as well and tracked down and alerted the officer.

Whitcomb would "not confirm or deny" the sources' accounts, but said that an investigation has been launched into the "circumstances that would allow for this patrol rifle to be left on this car."

He also couldn't say whether the rifle, reportedly an AR-15, was loaded.

Whitcomb would not speculate as to whether either officer would face discipline, but according to the Police Department's policy manual, officers are required to inspect patrol vehicles before use.

He said it is a violation of the department policies to leave a weapon unattended, but not a criminal violation.

Whitcomb says such rifles are assigned only to officers who have additional training. They're usually kept in the trunk or between the driver and passenger seats.

(c) 2011, The Seattle Times.

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