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L.A. County sheriff’s deputy accidentally opens fire in courtroom

A Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy accidentally opened fire inside a Van Nuys courtroom last month, prompting an internal investigation, officials said.

The Sheriff’s Department confirmed the shooting took place in the Van Nuys courthouse Aug. 16, describing the incident as an “unintentional discharge.” A department spokeswoman declined to detail the circumstances of the shooting or say if anyone was injured.

“Due to the active investigation we are unable to offer further comment at this time, but what we can say is based on the results of the investigation, proper administrative action will be taken if warranted,” the statement read.

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A spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County Superior Court system declined to answer questions about the incident, referring all queries to the Sheriff’s Department.

A law enforcement official told The Times that the gun went off as a deputy was putting the firearm away inside Department 112 in the Van Nuys Courthouse. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter with the media.

A second person with knowledge of the incident, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak with the media, said the bullet struck another deputy’s radio. The deputy was not injured, however, according to both the person and the law enforcement official.

There were court staff, two lawyers and one person in the gallery when the gun went off, the person said.

News of the shooting was first made public Saturday by Court Watch L.A., a project aimed at increasing transparency in the county’s court system. Rebecca Brown, a legal fellow with the Los Angeles chapter of the National Lawyers’ Guild who runs the Court Watch account, said she was first notified of the shooting Saturday.

Spokeswomen for the Sheriff’s Department and the courts refused to comment on any potential injuries.

It was unclear why neither the Sheriff’s Department nor court system gave any public notice about the incident. The Sheriff’s Department normally sends out short alerts any time a deputy opens fire on duty, but the only news alerts issued Aug. 16 involved safe driving tips. The incident is not listed on the Sheriff’s Department’s website, though the public list of shootings includes only those resulting in an “injury or fatality.”

Brown said she was frustrated by the lack of transparency around the shooting, as it took nearly six weeks for any information to become public.

“I can’t imagine if I worked in a courthouse, and I heard a gunshot go off and then there’s no follow up after that,” she said.


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