TAMPA — A Hillsborough County sheriff's detective has been demoted after an internal investigation found he was negligent when he left his loaded gun in a bathroom stall at an Ybor City movie theater in June.
Luke Hussey, a 13-year veteran with the sheriff's department, has also been suspended for 10 days without pay.
The demotion, which goes into effect this month, reduces his rank from detective to deputy and comes with a significant decrease in pay, said sheriff's spokesman Larry McKinnon.
Off-duty and celebrating Father's Day, Hussey was at Muvico Centro Ybor 20 on June 16 with his family to see the latest Superman movie, Man of Steel.
While his family ordered popcorn, he headed to the bathroom. There, he left his personal 9mm Glock pistol with a 10-round magazine filled with hollow point bullets on a toilet paper dispenser in one of the stalls.
Minutes later, Temple Terrace 9-year-old Zane Noland walked into the same stall and found it. He told his father, Wesley Noland, a Marine veteran, who took the gun into a private restroom, disarmed it and called 911.
Almost 90 minutes later, Hussey realized the gun was missing.
"I noticed in the middle of the movie that my firearm wasn't on my side," Hussey told investigators. "I immediately exited the theater, rushed to the bathroom, went directly to the stall that I remember using "
By then, the gun was in the possession of Tampa police. Hussey later retrieved it from impound.
In a review of the incident, State Attorney Mark Ober found no crime had been committed.
"It was an isolated act of carelessness, and not a course of conduct displaying reckless disregard for human life," Ober wrote.
However, the Sheriff's Office determined the incident violated its internal rule on the use, storage and handling of weapons.
Hussey, in an internal interview, said he thanked God that no one was hurt by his actions.
"I try to be responsible all the time and sometimes things like this happens," he said, "thank God, no one was hurt and you know, I'm very thankful for that."
In his 13 years with the Sheriff's Office, Hussey has had only one other disciplinary action taken against him. In 2012, he failed to respond to a subpoena and received a letter of reprimand.
The rest of his personnel file is filled with reviews touting him as a team player and an asset to the Sheriff's Office. In a review that took place just days prior to the Father's Day incident, supervisors rated him as a strong employee.
Hussey "is a solid investigator and can be counted on to do the right thing," one supervisor wrote.
This may not be the first time a law enforcement officer left a weapon in a bathroom stall at Muvico, according to an interview investigators had with manager Todd Summerfield.
A man who claimed to be a Tampa police officer left a gun in a stall in 2012, Summerfield said. Managers called police and the responding officers took care of the rest.
As for Zane, the child who found Hussey's gun: Muvico sent him a Superman backpack, to thank him for his help.
Times staff writer Jimmy Geurts contributed to this report. Shelley Rossetter can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3401.