In a recent article in my local paper, it was reported that a Utah man, Kent McKell, 65, was officially charged November 7th with discharge of a firearm in city limits after his shotgun accidently discharged in the Bismarck airport.

According to police, McKell, of Ferron, Utah, was trying to disarm the gun so he could check it at the airport on Oct. 31. The shotgun discharged hitting the lower corner of a wall. The incident caused more than $1,000 in damage, for which McKell agreed to pay.

Bismarck police said at the time of the incident that the airport did not want McKell to be charged because the incident was an accident and because he agreed to pay for the damages. However, Assistant City Attorney Paul Fraase said charging decisions are not up to victims or police at the scene.

When a crime occurs in an officer’s presence, the officer can arrest the person responsible. However, for offenses not committed in an officer’s presence, reports are sent to prosecutors to decide on charges.

The airport manager explained that police, Transportation Security Administration personnel, and airport security at the scene did not believe charges would be filed after investigating.  He did not understand why McKell was trying to check the gun in with his luggage at the ticket counter. Airline and airport rules require guns to be unloaded and in a locked case. The man was asked to go outside to take the gun apart and fit it into his case. He only went as far as an entrance vestibule and if had he had gone outside, the firearm may not have discharged indoors.

Fraase said a charge of discharge of a firearm in city limits is a typical charge in the case when a gun goes off accidentally and no one is hurt. Other similar cases have included incidents in which someone takes out a gun and accidentally fires a bullet through an apartment wall, he said.  While those incidents are not done intentionally, Fraase said charges still are appropriate.

Now you may think that this is all about justice, but I assure you, it is not…it’s about winning the case and getting your name in the paper.

In 2000, my house was robbed and fortunately, the perp was arrested later that night.  The police detectives were totally out of their realm and did a piss poor job of investigation.  The perp was found in possession of many articles from my house, his clothing had dog hair from my dogs on it, the particle fingerprint matched his fingerprints, and I am sure that the t-shirt that he left behind would have had his DNA on it, if it had been tested, but the city attorney’s office refused to file charges.  Why…because he was not caught in the act and they claimed that he could have gotten the stolen items from another party.  So, much for justice.

The real reason was that it was not a slam dunk case in their opinion and it was not that news worthy.  Now you fast forward to today, and nothing has changed.  Yes, this guy brought a loaded shotgun into the airport and when he attempted to unload it, he accidentally discharged the weapon.  After taking responsibility for his actions and agreeing to pay for the resulting damages, he now is charged with a misdemeanor and is expected to appear in court.

This is so wrong in so many ways.  First, he took responsibility for it…something many people do not do.  Secondly, he agreed to pay for damages…again, something most people do not do.  Thirdly, he was a non-resident here in this state to do some hunting…who knows how much money he financially contributed to the local economy.  Is this the message that we want to send to out-of-state outdoorsman?  I would not blame him if he never came back to this state.

It is too bad that decisions to file  legal charges are based on whether the case is winnable, whether it is news worthy, whether the attorney can get his or her name in the paper or reported on the news, and finally, determined by just how much work is ultimately involved to bring this case to court.  It is a sad day when this is the type of justice that is available to our local citizens.