Friday, February 11, 2011

Eugene Police Officer Accidentally and Fatally Shoots Himself

Today Eugene, Oregon is in mourning for yet another gun-related tragedy.

This time it is for an accidental shooting.  Officer Jerry Webber accidently shot himself with a hunting rifle as he was removing the gun from his vehicle to practice at a local shooting range.  He was off-duty, and was there with a friend.  The wound was fatal at the scene.

What makes this sad story remarkable is that this is a long-time officer of the force, hired and sworn-in in 1994.  He was promoted to sergeant in 2003, had lectured at local high schools and the University of Oregon, was a SWAT team member, and had served on vice-narcotics, internal affairs, and honor guard.

Yet,  despite all that training and expertise, he made the mistake of keeping his weapon loaded during transport, and failing to safeguard it during removal.  

Related side note regarding local gun violence:  Sgt. Webber was one of 9 SWAT team members who responded to a domestic violence call back on 1/18/03 and fatally shot an attacker in Creswell, Oregon in a justified shooting.

I think I met Sgt. Webber at last year's annual Eugene Police Department's "Prevention Convention" held at Sheldon High School.  If I'm not mistaken, he had shown me and my children the weapons and equipment used by the Eugene Police Departments SWAT team at a display there (in the area where kids could enter and sit in police vehicles).

Some of the commenters to this site in the past, and at other sites, have said that they could never make such a mistake.  I'm pretty sure this experienced policeman might have said the same thing.  No matter how experienced you are, one must never lose sight of the deadly nature of your weapon.  Always remember the four rules of firearms.  When I was taught to shoot as a Boy Scout, that was the first lesson.  I would also add that a firearm should always be unloaded and double-checked before transport.

My heart goes out to the Webber family in this time of sadness.  He is survived by a wife and daughter.  Not only is a good man lost, but that is one less hero to safeguard our community.


  1. "Some of the commenters to this site in the past, and at other sites, have said that they could never make such a mistake."

    Sure, a commenter might say that. But is she/he
    1) an adult?
    2) a gun owner?

    If you believe so, please post a quote, in context, with the person's handle. I want to see that person, first, confirm they wrote whatever it is you said they wrote, then there needs to be some confirmation that they are a bona fide gun owner.

    I am a gun owner and carrier (both open carry and concealed carry) with a lot of years of experience. Mistakes are possible, and no gun owner would seriously say they're impossible. However, if you simply compare the number of guns in the number of legal civilian hands to the number of accidents that happen through a mistake that legal owner made, it must be admitted that mistakes committed by legal gun owners are *relatively* few.

    Also, thanks for posting the four rules. Propagating such information is action to reduce gun deaths that we gun owners/carriers have common ground with you.

    And, I join you in expressing condolences to this officer's family.

  2. I am very sorry to hear of this shooting. I know that some handguns have a mechanism to show that a gun still has bullets and some handguns can even prevent a bullet in the chamber from firing if the magazine is removed but is anything similar available on rifles?

    I can hear the rants now that one should always assume a gun is loaded but this situation shows that even the most experienced and trained officers make mistakes.

    My deepest sympathies to Officer Webber's family.

  3. DM, I'm sorry, but I'm not going to go searching through all the comments on this blog and others to justify my statement. If you choose not to believe me otherwise, so be it.

    Accidents happen every day, and most are by legal gun owners and their families. If you wish for examples, click on the link of the "Ohh Shoot" blog to see recent examples.

  4. Baldr Wrote: "Accidents happen every day, and most are by legal gun owners and their families. If you wish for examples, click on the link of the "Ohh Shoot" blog to see recent examples."

    Most you see on the NEWS are legal gun owners, it seems. Do you know how many accidents are unreported as accidents because the persons involved were prohibited from possessing a firearm? I would suspect if people were prohibited from possessing a firearm, they quite likely aren't properly trained in safety and are more likely to have accidents, and they also aren't going to announce at the emergency room "Yeah, It's illegal for me to have a gun, and I shot myself with it by accident" ?

    Then again, the vast majority of gun owners do own them legally, so maybe they do have more accidents than those prohibited from possessing. I don't know, do you have a link to a study, or are you just guessing, too?


  5. Well, Orygunner, I'm going by what is reported in the news. I'm not aware of any accident statistics that separate legal gun owners versus illegal gun possessors(not counting children, which are accounted for separately for the most part) for accidental shootings.

    Certainly there are instances of criminals accidentally shooting themselves. I've read some reports (please don't ask me to prove that point, Orygunner, I don't feel like trying to go back and find them). Surely there are more than those that are reported, and are either not reported at all or are blamed by the criminal on others, but I haven't seen evidence to that point.

    As to how well they're trained, I doubt we could make any generalizations. I would hazard to guess it's about the same, but maybe you're right.

  6. Anonymous, for rifle load indicators, I found the following rifle load indicator (called a Saf-T-Round):

    Haven't heard anything about it, tho.

    And this patent claims to be one:

    Any gun folks out there know of a good option?

  7. By the way, those "Saf-T-Round" chamber safety flags are available in a number of calibers.

  8. Despite the fact that the number of gun owners has been rising for years, accidental shootings are at an all-time low.

    This is not to say that this officer's death isn't a tragedy. It is.

    Furthermore it's one that could have been prevented had he followed the basic rules of gun safety. Clearly he violated at least three of those (he didn't treat the firearm as if it was loaded, he put his finger on the trigger, and he allowed the muzzle to cover himself.)

    However, its been my sad observation that many police officers, a group of people that anti-gun activists seem to be in favor of arming to the hilt, are actually not "well trained" nor are they "experts."

    In fact, police officers as a group exhibit some of the worst gun handling I've seen, and it doesn't seem to matter if they sit behind a desk or kick down doors on a SWAT team.

    Whether this is an issue endemic to police culture, a lack of training, or a belief that being blessed by the state makes you bullet proof, I cannot comment on.

    What I can comment on is the fact that I've outshot police officers with startling regularity at various shooting events, all while adhering to basic gun handling safety rules.

  9. only cops should have guns. they're the only ones trained enough...

  10. Your quote:
    "Yet, despite all that training and expertise, he made the mistake of keeping his weapon loaded during transport, and failing to safeguard it during removal. ", you really like to make it look like when a *sworn officer* does something illegal, its a *mistake*, but if a regular citizen does is, its *ignorance*.

    News flash..this *sworn officer*, if he was off-duty as you claim, was breaking *federal* transportation in this country is allowed to transport weapons while loaded. You can carry weapons on your person if duly licensed (ie: handguns) or in your vehicle while in the performance of your job (security guards and such) or while on-duty as a police officer.

    He didn't *make a mistake*...he broke the law. And he paid the ultimate price for his disregard *of* the law.

  11. @Dragon,

    Actually, You are incorrect. There is no federal law prohibiting transportation of loaded firearms. There is also definitely no Oregon law against it (where the accident occurred), either.

    What you are probably thinking of is the "Safe Passage" provision of the Federal 1986 Firearms Owner Protection Act, which protects gun owners by giving them protection travelling through states with strict firearms laws if their firearms are unloaded and locked in the trunk.

    That's not to say it's a bad idea to travel with a loaded long gun, but it certainly is not illegal.


  12. Baldr,

    Is an accident sufficient reason to impose more restrictive laws on the part of the population that didn't have the accident?

  13. Anonymous, I didn't propose any laws in this post. However, I would likely support laws against transport of loaded rifles or shotguns, as well as use of load indicators (or, in the case of rifles and shotguns, "flag rounds" like the Saf-T-Round products). These are good ideas which would not impede hunting usage of these products or right to bare those arms, so I don't see any reason not to do this if it saves lives.

    One accident isn't reason enough, but enough accidents happen each year that I think it is warranted to take action.

  14. @Baldr, Oregon law currently does prohibit loaded firearms on an ATV (ORS 821.240), but the law:
    a) is too vague, not identifying what exactly an ATV is (some part of Oregon Law include street legal 4x4 vehicles as ATVs when they're off-road, some parts exclude them), and

    b) has no exclusion for firearms carried for self-defense.

    I understand there's a bill coming up in the Oregon Legislature this year about an exclusion for CHL holders, but that feels discriminatory to me, the exclusion should be for any holstered handguns.

    As far as a LAW requiring all firearms be unloaded, why do you think a law is the best solution? I think education, especially this kind would be a much better answer without adding more unnecessary laws to the books:


  15. There has been action taken and its been taken years ago.

    We used to have boy scouts and others teaching kids from a young age how to be safe around firearms. But that was deemed "dangerous" and it was taken away. So now we have a generation who have grown up without those early admonitions ringing in their heads. There was a professional gun writer and teacher who came up with four rules that most people in the Gun crowd simply refer to as "the Rules".

    1treat all guns as if they are loaded all the time, otherwise noted as there is no such thing as an empty gun, until you have checked it, and checked it Everytime you pick it up.

    2 know your backgound and never shoot unless you are positive of the backstop

    3 Never point a gun at anything you are unwilling to destroy.

    4 never touch the trigger until your sites are on the target.

    If those four rules as followed expressly, it's a pretty safe procedure.

    My grandad operated under the concept "every gun is loaded". And "watch the muzzle". If you pay attention to those two things it's the same thing.

  16. @P: Yes, that's a version of the four rules that is similar to the one I linked to in the post. A good idea to learn, even if you have no interest in gun usage.

    I don't mind the idea of teens in Boy Scouts learning these rules. I did, and if a family has guns (as mine did) or goes hunting it is a very important thing to learn early on. Safety first.

  17. Orygunner, I'll stick to the topic here, but I'm aware of the ATV bill (but haven't yet read the language - thus won't yet issue a comment on it).

    If it were up to me and other pro-control groups, we would require mandatory training for anyone purchasing a firearm. I feel it is incredibly important, and yet Oregon doesn't require even a minute of training for purchase of a firearm. Safety would be the first part of that training.

    But training isn't mandatory. So the next best option, or one in addition, is to legislate people's behavior by making it illegal to act certain ways which could be enforced, such as by making it illegal to transport a loaded rifle. There's no need to have a rifle loaded while driving, and it only endangers the driver and those around him.

    The link you sent was a post about teaching gun usage and safety in school as a school program, and idea I am very much against. I commented there on that.

  18. "If it were up to me and other pro-control groups, we would require mandatory training for anyone purchasing a firearm."

    Who would pay for the mandatory training, how much training would be satisfactory (hopefully more than what police officers get), and where would the training be done? Training isn't cheap and gun ranges aren't exactly on every corner.

    And how can you be for mandatory training yet be against training as a school program? Isn't that a bit hypocritical?

  19. AztecRed, there are certainly programs to base a mandatory training program on. For instance, those used for conceal carry training permits. Such programs may not be cheap for the government or the individual, but weighed against the cost of gun-related deaths that would otherwise happen, I argue it is well worth it.

    The idea of mandatory training for all adults who purchase guns is a very different proposal than the idea of advocating teaching gun use to all children in schools. It's not hypocritical at all. Guns don't belong in schools for any reason, outside of law enforcement, due to the naturally impulsive nature of most children and the danger it poses, particularly from troubled children. (And it's hard enough to get school funding for the basic curriculum.)

  20. @Baldr, Well, your suggestion that guns don't belong in schools (except law enforcement) is a biased statement that doesn't rely on any facts at all. What reason do you have prohibiting the legal carry of guns in school? I do it every time I go into either of my kids' schools, and a badge is not a magical talisman that makes police any better than any other citizen.

    Now of course, we aren't going to be handing out shotguns to fifth graders.. In the Middle School program I attended we only had pellet guns, under strict supervision. Even if we re-introduced shootings sports back into high school, it would be under very tight supervision there, too, so I fail to see where the problem would be. A "troubled" youth could have easier access to firearms elsewhere.

    I didn't know your type of Ceasefire program (as opposed to the Chicago one that works) actually had a "stop, don't touch, leave the area, tell an adult" sort of program, it's a shame they gave up on something that could actually have an effect - If CeaseFire focused more on education and safety than useless gun control laws, they might actually make a difference.


  21. "Guns don't belong in schools for any reason" But the Eddie Eagle program absolutely does. It's a program that teaches kids three things about firearms. 1) Don't touch them. 2) leave the area immediately 3) Tell a responsible adult.

    Every child knows Stop, Drop and Roll. They should all know these rules just as well.

    I'm surprised that the anti violence groups don't call for the program more (or at all) since it will do a better job of saving kids lives than pretending that guns don't exist.

  22. "The link you sent was a post about teaching gun usage and safety in school as a school program, and idea I am very much against. I commented there on that."


    We (rightfully) make sure kids can safely operate vehicles in driver's ed classes, and do what we can to keep them from making life-altering mistakes by putting them through sex-ed curriculum, but when it comes to firearms, clearly ignorance is bliss.

  23. I do have this problem.

    The Constitution and the Bill of Rights are pretty clear. When you accept the idea of needing a permit to exercise your First Amendment and accept other restrictions like training programs, waiting periods to publish, etc. The we will begin to look at whether we want to accept those restrictions on our Second Amendment rights.

  24. "The idea of mandatory training for all adults who purchase guns is a very different proposal than the idea of advocating teaching gun use to all children in schools. It's not hypocritical at all."

    I disagree. Your suggestion would only provide the training to those who can afford to pay whatever ridiculous costs are associated with said training. Effectively, it's discriminating against poor people. Additionally, one might argue that the lower socio-economic classes have more need for a gun (think, single mom living in the bad part of town) or more likely to encounter a firearm (think, 13 year old kids being recruited by gangs). Personally, I'd rather that 13 year old have been trained in gun safety in school, wouldn't you?

  25. What I wondered and wrote about on my blog, is did the officer in question have a history of "accidents" with guns. It is my contention that any wrong behaviour with a gun should result in immediate forfeiture of gun rights. This would save many lives.

  26. @Mikeb,

    You guess this would save many lives, have you considered how many it would cost?

    You realize the only number this would effect are a) accidents and b) law-abiding people who will obey your prohibition. These are the LOWEST subsets of the entire firearm-related death category.

    Meanwhile, how many of these people your suggestion disarms may become victims of violent crime and even murder because they were unable to protect themselves from a violent criminal attack? You can try to downplay or even dismiss defensive gun uses, but the truth is they DO occur and guns ARE used to SAVE lives.

    The question becomes, is implementing your suggested law going to save more lives than it kills?

    Not to mention the loss of liberty, I don't suppose you even bother factoring that in, do you?


  27. My sincere condolences to this officer, his compatriots, and his family.

    I wonder, though, if you asked other police officers whether a gun should always be unloaded for transport, what they'd say. I'm certain the long guns in the trunks of their cruisers are loaded for one very good reason. When you need that firearm, you need it *now*. You can't say "HALT a minute, please; I need to load up." An unloaded gun is a club, and clubs are not very handy at distance.

  28. AMCIT, the officer was off-duty, and the rifle that he was shot with was a hunting rifle that had been transported in his private vehicle. Obviously not a good idea.

    I don't know what the regulation is for officers transporting loaded weapons during active duty in a police vehicle. I'm guessing it's allowed, and I'm not necessarily against it.

  29. One important aspect of this accident is this: The news media has never identified the bolt action hunting rifle that was involved in this incident. The number 1 selling bolt action hunting rifle in the USA is the Remington Model 700, which has over 40% of the market.

    The Remington 700 has a known safety defect in its trigger mechanism that can cause the gun to discharge by itself, WITHOUT the trigger ever being touch!! Despite the fact that even the designer of the rifle and its trigger has admitted to this safety defect being present in the gun, Remington has COVERED THIS UP FOR DECADES!

    There have been many documented accidental shooting just like this one, where the fault was found to be with the defective Remington 700 trigger. CNBC recently did an in-depth investigative report on this cover-up, and exposed the lies by Remington management.

    The next broadcast of this investigative report will be on March 4th, at 10pm, on the CNBC cable channel.

    Much of the results of this investigation have been published onlinehere:

    It is a very shocking story.

    Even more information can be read here:

    So you see, there is a clear possibility here that Officer Jerry Webber may NOT HAVE BEEN RESPONSIBLE FOR HIS OWN DEATH.

    If his rifle was a Remington 700, then there is a real possibility that Remington Arms Corporation is responsible for his death.

    82% of Police SWAT teams in the USA use the Remington 700 rifle. So there is probably an excellent chance that Webber's rifle could be a Model 700.


  30. "accidents"(actually they are caused occurrences) occur daily in life. Look at the daily vehicle collision toll and death rate. The firearms rate is substantially less, which to me indicates greater care by far with the handling of a firearm, then the nationwide carelessness with which vehicles are handled and the resulting 50 K plus fatality rate. This of course does not include the serious/permanently disabling injuries and astronomical property damage.

  31. It is sad that there are so many vehicular deaths, Robinhood, and at least the government has stepped in with safety regulations and laws to reduce fatalities. There are organizations which work to reduce these by advocating safer behavior or safer legislation.

    But you seem to dismiss completely the thousands of accidental shootings and deaths by firearms, just because more die by vehicles. This is a callous and flippant argument, and a rate of fatality that you seem quite comfortable with.