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No charges filed for accidental shooting in Wentzville church

No charges filed for accidental shooting in Wentzville church

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A gun owner with a concealed carry permit will not face charges for accidentally shooting a man in a Wentzville church.

St. Charles County Prosecuting Attorney Jack Banas on Friday announced he would not seek charges against the truck driver whose .38-caliber pistol accidentally fired, shooting a man through the chest after a Jan. 21 trivia night fundraiser at St. Patrick Catholic Church.

"It was obviously unintentional," Banas said. "We can't find a criminal charge to go forward with this individual."

The shooting occurred about 11:20 p.m. as the truck driver and victim were helping to clean up after the fundraiser. The gun, a Cobra Derringer, was in the truck driver's coat pocket. The man picked up his coat as he prepared to leave the church. The gun fell out of his pocket, hit the floor and fired. The bullet struck the victim, seated at the next table, in the back and exited through his chest.

At the same time, several people were popping balloons, Banas said. One witness said she thought she heard a gun shot, but all other witnesses thought the sound came from balloons popping, Banas said.

A woman found the gun on the floor and gave it to the owner as he was leaving, Banas said. He said the gun owner was unaware that the gun had fired or that anyone had been injured, but the next morning, he saw news reports that someone was shot at the fundraiser. He checked his gun and discovered an empty shell. The man went to the Wentzville police station, surrendered his weapon and gave a statement.

Banas said there was no evidence that the gun owner had consumed alcohol or was intoxicated, but his statement was consistent with those of other witnesses. The man had a valid concealed weapon permit.

Banas said the Cobra Derringer is commonly referred to as a "pocket pistol" because owners often carry it in their pocket. The truck driver said he was told when he bought the gun that it was safe to carry in his pocket, as long as it was not cocked.

After reviewing criminal statutes and case law, prosecutors found nothing to support a criminal charge of assault, Banas said.

Banas did express two concerns dealing with the law. There is no requirement that the weapon be holstered or secured properly while it is carried, he said. Also, the law does not require permit holders to take a test qualifying them to use the specific weapon they intend to carry. The law requires permit holders to qualify with a revolver and semi-automatic weapon.

Banas on Monday said the victim had been released from the hospital and was recovering at home. "He is getting better, but he has a long road to recovery," Banas said. The victim did not wish to speak to the media, Banas said.

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