Florida Police Officer's Gun Discharges in School Cafeteria as Students Queue for Lunch, Investigation Launched

An investigation has been launched after the weapon carried by a Florida police officer discharged yesterday in a school cafeteria while students lined up for food.

The incident occurred in the Thomas E. Weightman Middle School in Wesley Chapel at around 12:40 p.m., according to a spokesperson for the Pasco County Sheriff's Office. No one was injured.

Lieutenant Troy Ferguson told reporters in a briefing yesterday that the school resource officer—who was not named by the department—had been assisting with lunch duty when his "holstered weapon unintentionally discharged." The bullet fired behind him, striking a tile floor and brick wall.

Ferguson confirmed that an investigation had since been launched to determine exactly what had happened. He noted that the resource officer had been temporarily reassigned, per protocol. It is believed the officer was leaning against a wall at the time. The firearm was a Sig Sauer 9mm.

It was clear from Ferguson's comments that the probe remains in a preliminary stage. He said deputies would review closed-circuit TV footage and added that the officer's body cam had not been recording at the time.

"There are a number of safety features on the threat level three holsters that we carry with our firearms, so there are a number of dynamic factors that are involved with fine motor skills functions that would cause that to happen so we have to really kind of really dissect that," Ferguson said, noting there had not been a "panicked reaction" in the cafeteria.

But some students of the school feared the worst as the single shot rang out, WFLA reported. "It scared me so bad I dropped my tray," said an eighth-grader named Madison.

Another student, a sixth-grader named Chanel, told the Florida news outlet: "When I first heard the gunshot…I was like, what if there is a school shooting and this is where I die?"

Ferguson, who said the incident was "very rare," added the deputy was "very distraught and felt horrible" after the gun discharged. "I think that we are extraordinarily lucky," he added.

The Pasco Sheriff's Office said in a statement: "We want to make parents aware of an incident today at Weightman Middle School in Wesley Chapel.

"Preliminary information indicates that the SRO [school resource officer] assigned to Weightman Middle School was in the cafeteria today, leaning against the wall when his holstered, duty-issued firearm incidentally discharged into the wall behind him. There are no injuries to any student, staff, or the SRO.

"At this time, supervisors have initiated an investigation into this incident, per protocol. There will be a full administrative investigation into this matter. We want to again make it clear that the weapon discharged directly into the wall and no students were in danger," it added.

On Twitter, the Florida Education Association campaigning group said: "This should serve as a cautionary note before the Florida House takes up #SB7030 which seeks to put more firearms on Florida's public school campuses." The bill, a reaction to school shootings, was scheduled for debate yesterday afternoon.

In its own statement, the Thomas E. Weightman Middle School Facebook account wrote that a "full administrative investigation" would be launched by the faculty and sheriff's office.

It said: "We want to again make it clear that the weapon discharged directly into the wall and no students or staff were in danger. This is an ongoing investigation, so this is the extent of the information we can provide at this time."