At Powerline, our friend Steve Hayward is rightly agog over the case of the off-duty FBI agent who unintentionally discharged his firearm while gettin’ jiggy in a Denver bar in the wee hours of Saturday morning. The agent has now been identified as Chase Bishop, 29, of the Bureau’s Washington Field Office. One person was injured, apparently not seriously, when agent Bishop accidentally fired the gun.
As illustrated in the video below, the agent did not have his weapon securely holstered. It was tucked in the rear of his waist-band and flew out when he did a backflip on the dance-floor at the Mile High Spirits Distillery. When he bent down to grab it, the gun discharged, firing a round across the floor, reportedly hitting or grazing a patron in the leg. The video shows the agent tucking the gun back in his belt, raising his hands while smiling sheepishly, and walking away . . . not in the direction of where the shot was fired, not seeming to notice a person was wounded.
I have seen conflicting reports about whether agent Bishop was in Denver for personal reasons or for . . . yes . . . FBI training. Clearly, he was not engaged in his official duties on the dance floor. He was reportedly arrested by local police and later released into the custody of an FBI supervisor. He has been whisked out of Colorado.
To answer some of the questions Steve raises, this could be a serious incident in terms of both criminal liability and administrative discipline.
It is a class 5 felony under Colorado law to discharge a weapon recklessly into an occupied building. (I do not know if shooting while in the occupied building is considered the same as shooting into it.) To the extent there is immunity for peace officers, it is limited to those who are engaged in their official duties.
It is otherwise a class 2 misdemeanor to discharge a firearm recklessly or with criminal negligence, or to possess a firearm while under the influence of alcohol (even if one has a valid license). Reports indicate that the forensic testing in the investigation includes measuring the agent’s blood alcohol level.
When former director James Comey exonerated Hillary Clinton on the rationale that recklessness, gross negligence, and extreme carelessness are not typical criminal-law mens rea standards, we disagreed, pointing out that they are routinely applied in situations involving serious risk of harm (e.g., negligent homicide). The Clinton defense is unlikely to help agent Bishop.
Meanwhile, agents are required to report to the FBI any time they discharge their weapons, intentionally or unintentionally. These incidents are investigated. The reckless discharge of a weapon in a crowded room, resulting in an injury (thankfully, not a bad one) is apt to result in severe consequences, quite possibly including termination of employment.
It’s a shame. No of us who has a rap sheet of party-hearty, dumbass 29-year-old-guy stuff can be thinking anything except “There but for the grace of God go I.” As long as no one got seriously hurt, I hope Agent Bishop is as good at figuratively landing on his feet as he was literally on the dance floor. But he picked a bad time to do an asinine thing, and a lot of people will rightly say that, if he weren’t an FBI agent, he’d already be facing a state prosecution.