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Police chief suspends himself over gun mishap

Police Chief David Milchan damaged more than a few walls when he accidentally fired his new handgun in his office. He shot a hole in his ego too. "I've always prided myself on my familiarity with guns," Milchan said Thursday, adding that he has won many awards for marksmanship. "I just never had any problem like this."

Milchan has suspended himself for two days without pay and will take a remedial training course on the use of weapons after the accidental firing.

A news release from the police department said, "This is the result of carelessness in gun handling. (The) chief did not follow proper procedures in loading/un-loading gun."

Milchan said he was loading his new Smith and Wesson 9mm semiautomatic handgun at his desk at 4:40 p.m. May 31 when the gun discharged, sending one bullet flying at a 45-degree angle through three walls. No one was injured.

"I was unfamiliar with this particular gun and did something I shouldn't have done," Milchan said. He said he released the hammer on the gun, causing it to fire.

"Naturally, I just sat there. I was just kind of stunned."

Milchan said the firing "sounded like a loud firecracker" and brought several people running toward his office. After he recovered from the sudden shock, Milchan said he checked to see if everyone else was okay.

Milchan said he believes the Smith and Wesson 9-mm is a safe gun. He said people should not worry that officers' handguns could fire accidentally.

"It has very good safety mechanisms," Milchan said. "But if you don't use them, they don't work."

The Pinellas Park Police Department began using 9-mm handguns several months ago, Milchan said. He said he was the last to get one because he wanted the officers to have them first. He said he had been trained to handle the weapon, but had forgotten much of the training

Milchan said he has been carrying his .38-caliber revolver and really doesn't pay that much attention to it.

"Once you get into an administrative position, the gun becomes more of a nuisance," he said.