Police chief injured in accidental shooting

Police chief injured in accidental shooting

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WHITEHALL -- Fort Edward’s police chief is out of work for several weeks after accidentally shooting himself in the hand with a handgun Friday night.

Walt Sandford suffered a gunshot wound to his left hand that will require surgery to repair as he cleaned a 9mm semiautomatic handgun in his Whitehall home.

The incident came as Sandford — who is also a Whitehall village trustee — was leading an investigation into an accidental shooting death last week of a 13-year-old boy in the village of Fort Edward.

Sandford said Wednesday that his recovery is expected to take up to 6 weeks. He is right-handed.

“My pride was hurt more than my hand,” he said.

Fort Edward Police Sgt. Justin Derway will be in charge of the department for the weeks the chief is out, although Sandford said he expects he will be able to resume some office duties sooner.

Sandford said the round entered his palm below his pinky, traveling through the hand.

He said he went to Glens Falls Hospital by private vehicle — “I didn’t want to bother the local rescue squad” — and was then taken to Albany Medical Center.

Sandford said he was cleaning the gun, a personally owned weapon that he does not use for police purposes.

He was breaking down the gun to clean it and moved the slide back, believing there was not a round in the chamber, when the gun discharged.

“Obviously, I thought the round had ejected,” he said. “I was doing something I’ve done thousands of times.”

Whitehall Police and the Washington County Sheriff’s Office investigated the accident.

Sheriff Jeff Murphy said the shooting was an “unfortunate accident” and that even the most highly trained firearms experts make mistakes with guns.

“I’ve seen the same thing happen to veterans firearms instructors,” he said.

The investigation of the fatal shooting of Gary Cota was continuing under the direction of Derway. Cota was shot June 5 when a shotgun he and a friend were handling in Cota’s bedroom discharged.

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