Wis. cop charged after gun goes off at mall

If convicted, Sgt. Michael Edwards faces a maximum possible penalty of nine months in jail and a fine of $10,000.


By Gina Barton
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

A Milwaukee police sergeant whose gun went off inside Southridge Mall in Greendale on Nov. 2 was charged Thursday with endangering safety by use of a dangerous weapon, a misdemeanor.

Michael A. Edwards, 45, has been on the force since 1986. He also is the president of the Milwaukee Police Supervisors' Organization, the union that represents sergeants, lieutenants and captains, according to the organization's website.

If convicted, Edwards faces a maximum possible penalty of nine months in jail and a fine of $10,000.

According to a criminal complaint released Thursday, Edwards was in line at Auntie Anne's pretzel shop when he reached into his back pocket for his wallet. As he did, his gun slid out of his waistband and down his pants. As he reached for the weapon, it went off, blowing a hole through his pants. The gun was not in a holster and did not have a safety, the complaint says. A woman standing nearby heard a loud bang and felt a stinging sensation on her leg, where she suffered a welt, the complaint says.

According to earlier reports, the bullet hit the marble floor and disintegrated. It was not clear from the complaint whether the bullet ricocheted off the floor and hit the woman's leg, or whether she was hit by a piece of shrapnel. Chief Deputy District Attorney Kent Lovern did not respond to messages seeking clarification Thursday.

Not guilty plea
Edwards appeared Thursday afternoon in Milwaukee County Circuit Court, where he pleaded not guilty and was allowed to remain free on a $500 signature bond, according to online court records. His next court appearance is scheduled for Jan. 5. Edwards' attorney, Michael Guerin, did not return a telephone call Thursday. The.40-caliber Smith & Wesson was Edwards' duty weapon, according to Anne E. Schwartz, department spokeswoman. Police officers are allowed to carry weapons off-duty.

Pending the outcome of the criminal case, Edwards will be on administrative duty with the Neighborhood Task Force, Schwartz said. While doing the desk job, he will retain his full police powers, which means he is still allowed to wear a badge, carry a gun and make arrests.

In a written statement, Milwaukee Police Chief Edward A. Flynn said: "I am disappointed the District Attorney has decided to use the overburdened criminal justice system to address a situation that is best and most appropriately handled as a training and disciplinary matter." Edwards has not yet been disciplined in connection with the case, and there is no previous discipline listed on his personnel record.

A misdemeanor charge or conviction does not preclude someone from serving as a police officer in Wisconsin. At least nine Milwaukee police officers have misdemeanor convictions on their records, according to a Journal Sentinel investigation published in October.

An officer loses the right to serve upon sentencing of a felony due to a federal law that prohibits felons from carrying guns.

Copyright 2011, Journal Sentinel Inc.

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