AUBURN, MI Nov 21 2016
Administrators at Bay City Western Middle and High School told parents of students last week that they initially didn't have "any inclination" a gun had been fired after a Bay County Sheriff's deputy discharged his weapon, striking a teacher in a neighboring classroom.
The incident happened at 12:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 11, at the school in Auburn, 500 W. Midland St. Michigan State Police officials have said Deputy Adam J. Brown was in a classroom by himself when he "negligently discharged" a gun in the building. The bullet passed through at least one wall and struck a teacher in the neck area. The projectile did not break the teacher's skin and she was uninjured, police said.
Police wrapped up their investigation Friday, Nov. 18. Their report was sent to Bay County Prosecutor Kurt Asbury's office that day.
Parents of students on Friday received an automated phone message from the district's School Messenger system. Western Middle School Principal Amy Bailey provided an update to parent's in the phone message, which was obtained by The Bay City Times.
The message in its entirety is transcribed below:
"Good evening, this is Mrs. Bailey with an update regarding the incident on Nov. 11. We will continue to communicate the facts with our Western families through SchoolMessenger, and not through the media. As you are aware, we are working closely with the Michigan State Police as this is a criminal — and I have to stress, criminal — investigation.
"There are a few details that we would like to share. You all should know that at no point was it reported that a gun was shot in the school. The initial call was a report from a teacher that she was struck by a small object that seemed to come from within the wall. Administration immediately reported to the classroom to evaluate the situation. The sound reported to administration was a hissing sound, not a loud boom, as reported in the media. Being that this classroom is by the robotics room and the maintenance garage, mechanical-type sounds are not unusual. Initially, it was believed it could possibly be a pipe burst or some problem within the wall.
"The school resource officer along with other administrators, were called to help evaluate the situation. At no time did we believe or have any inclination that a firearm had been discharged. The building was put into secure mode to eliminate movement from classrooms as administration took on different rolls reviewing cameras, working with custodians, talking with teachers and students, all while communicating with one another and the school resource officer. When it was determined that the school police resource officer had discharged his firearm unintentionally while alone in a classroom, authorities were called and the investigation began.
"It was not until later Friday that interviews were completed and we were given the OK by the Michigan State Police to communicate with our families. Administrators called every family of the students that were in the classroom where the bullet entered and also sent out a SchoolMessenger to all families in the Western complex. We want to thank everyone once again for your patience in this process. This is a terrible situation and we are grateful that no staff or students were seriously injured. We continue to make students' safety our top priority. Please call us if you'd like to discuss this further. Thank you, and have a wonderful evening."
Bailey confirmed to The Times that she sent the message to parents on Friday, but declined to comment on the incident.
It's unclear who reported the sound, referenced in the message, to school administration. The message also doesn't specify whether the officer had "any inclination" that a firearm had been discharged.
Bay County Undersheriff Troy Cunningham said Brown, the deputy in question, has been put on paid administrative leave.
The gun Brown fired was a Sig Sauer .380-caliber pistol. It is Brown's backup pistol, which is OK for him to carry according to departmental policy, Sheriff John E. Miller has said. Police have not disclosed what prompted Brown to fire the gun, apart from saying it was a "negligent discharge."
"The only way those guns go off is if you squeeze the trigger," said 1st Lt. David Kaiser, with the Michigan State Police.
Kaiser said Brown, who has been on the force since 1996, spending the last 17 years as Western's school resource officer, was well loved by everyone at the school.
"He's been around for a while," Kaiser said. "The teachers love him, the students love him... but the fact of the matter is, the weapon was mishandled and it discharged. It's very fortunate that no one was seriously hurt."
In May 2012, CrimeStoppers of Bay County named Brown its Police Officer of the Year Award. Brown started his own program training officers how to handle calls involving children with autism and other special needs. In 2015, he led an active school-shooter training scenario at the Bay-Arenac Intermediate School District education facility.