Traverse City Record-Eagle

Our Views

October 10, 2013

Editorial: State Police owe public explanation

Lesson No. 1: If you find a loaded handgun sitting on a toilet paper dispenser in a grocery store restroom, do not pick it up, take it home and stash it in a shed.

Lesson No. 2: If you’re going to leave a .357-caliber Magnum handgun sitting on a toilet paper dispenser in a grocery store restroom but you don’t want to get into any trouble, be sure you’re a Michigan State Police trooper.

Timothy Alan Flanagan, 49, of Fife Lake, is facing up to 10 years in prison after authorities said he failed to report a gun he found inside the Kalkaska Family Fare supermarket.

But the off-duty state trooper from the Wayland Post in Allegan County who left the gun behind when he used the restroom May 20 is facing no disciplinary action and remains on active duty.

“He certainly had to answer internally for what happened,” state police spokeswoman Shanon Banner said. “He did not face disciplinary action because it was determined to be human error.”

Well, gosh, who can hold a law enforcement officer accountable for a simple human error like leaving a loaded handgun where anyone, including a child or someone who wants to stick up a gas station, might find it.

Flanagan said he initially thought the firearm was a toy or a starter pistol, but quickly realized it was real. He said he took it home with “all intentions” of calling police but feared repercussions as time passed; so he left it locked in a shed on his property. Six weeks later a family member told Kalkaska County sheriff’s deputies about the gun and now Flanagan faces felony charges of larceny of a firearm and receiving and concealing a firearm.

That Flanagan did something most of us would consider pretty dense (to put it charitably) is beyond question.

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