Man charged after trooper leaves gun in bathroom

A man who found a state trooper's handgun in a northern Michigan grocery store bathroom has been charged with failing to report the weapon. But the trooper who left the loaded firearm behind wasn't punished.
AP Wire
Oct 6, 2013

The unnamed trooper, who was off-duty at the time, was from the Wayland Post in Allegan County. He used the restroom inside a Kalkaska supermarket on May 20 and accidentally left the gun on top of the toilet paper dispenser, said state police spokeswoman Shanon Banner. The trooper remains on active duty, she said.

"He certainly had to answer internally for what happened," Banner said. "He did not face disciplinary action, because it was determined to be human error. He didn't attempt to hide it or cover it up. In this case, as soon as the trooper realized he did not have the weapon, he made immediate contact with his commander."

Kalkaska County Prosecutor Mike Perreault said the man who found the weapon, Timothy Alan Flanagan, is in trouble because he took the opposite approach.

"If you come across a firearm, the appropriate response is to report it," the prosecutor said. "Same if you find a wallet on the sidewalk. You should report it."

Flanagan, 49, is facing a 10-year prison sentence. The Fife Lake resident said it's not fair he faces felony charges of larceny of a firearm and receiving and concealing a firearm while the trooper wasn't punished, especially considering the gun was left in a public restroom where a child potentially could have come across it.

Flanagan took the gun home with "all intentions" of calling police, but he feared repercussions as time passed, so he left it locked in a shed on his property, he said. He had the weapon for six weeks before a family member told sheriff's deputies about the weapon on July 5.

"I should have done things a lot differently, but don't feel (I) should be criminally charged for keeping it safe," he said.

Flanagan's jury trial is scheduled for Dec. 17.

Comments

Wolverine49457

So when I make a mistake while driving that does not involve injury or loss of property I'll just tell the trooper it was "human error" and drive off and that will be the end of it...after all my passenger wife will have dealt with it internally and that should be enough.

rukidding

The officer broke no law and Flanagan did.

If while driving you make a mistake that doesn't break a law then you are good to go. If you break the law then you suffer the consequences; what's hard to understand about that?

Wolverine49457

Maybe it was just for the show but years ago watching cops often was the situation where they are banging a guy against the trunk with elbows mashing his face into the metal while screaming that some kid could find the loaded pistol he threw out along the expressway and hurt himself, I was ok with that because the suspect is likely a dirt bag and deserves it and yes, someone could find it and accidentally shoot themselves or someone else. This is not the case in “this case”, we paid to train this man extensively to become a trooper so law or not is it farfetched to ask for a higher standard? Are you saying that because the law does not exist for this that somehow its ok to leave his loaded pistol next to the dumper because HIS gun cannot be found by a kid who might hurt themselves or others? You miss the point, this case should be the precedent, he should be reprimanded and then write something in....no beatings or starving them at a stake but remedial training and some suspension without pay, 2nd offense is reduction to something that does not involve handling a weapon or termination.
I can assure you if John Q. Public left a loaded pistol next to a public toilet where some kid could find it but the cops found it first you think they’d hand it back and say “here ya go man, it’s just human error go and enjoy your day”? Breathe into a paper bag for a minute I'm not saying sentence him to death I'm saying he is expected to conduct himself more professionally than to endanger the public by leaving a loaded weapon where anyone could take it. If he or she fails in that duty to protect the public by the dereliction of duty, ignorance or incompetence of the duties of a law enforcement professional some form of reprimand should take place.

LessThanAmused

Another prime example of justice NOT served.

rukidding

Really, what justice was not served?

LessThanAmused

Well, for me, it's a bit too heavy-handed for the poor schmuck that found the gun to be incarcerated for a multiple year sentence for a situation HE didn't create. I'm not a lawyer, but I think it could be argued that he didn't cause any situation that resulted in a public safety issue. If someone else had grabbed that piece, with less than honorable intentions, we could have seen a robbery, or maybe even a murder. Who's to say how it would've played out?
If the cop is gonna have his paddies slapped and suffer the riducule of the other officers as punishment than it stands to reason that maybe this dude should get his paddies slapped too, for taking something that wasn't his and maybe that along with a year of probation and some community service to give him time to think things over. Not everyone that does something stupid needs to spend 30 days in the hole......

Be interested in your take on this too, if you have a serious reply and no, I'm not kiddin'.

rukidding

If I leave my keys in the car by mistake and you come along and take it, it is still grand larceny. You can't just say it wasn't your fault because I helped create the opportunity.

This is a clear case of not taking responsibility for one’s actions. “I wouldn’t have stolen that gun if he hadn’t left it there.” Or, I wouldn’t have killed that person if they hadn’t made me so mad, it’s their fault not mine. Really?

"If someone else had grabbed that piece, with less than honorable intentions, we could have seen a robbery, or maybe even a murder. Who's to say how it would've played out?"

Who's to say that Flanagan wouldn’t have used this in the commission of a crime had not a family member informed the authorities? Do you think that family member was maybe afraid?

How right you are, this is exactly why we have the laws about turning in a gun because those things do happen. This is pretty cut and dry, this is not the first time this has happened and it won't be the last. We have laws about what to do when you find a gun; Flanagan broke the laws governing this situation. Charges were brought and it will be dealt with in court. It doesn’t matter that it was a law enforcement officer that misplaced the gun; it could have been me or millions of other people that have a legal right to carry.

I'm still trying to find the part where justice wasn't served!

LessThanAmused

"If I leave my keys in the car by mistake and you come along and take it, it is still grand larceny. You can't just say it wasn't your fault because I helped create the opportunity".

Can't argue with that, I agree. However I'm not sure making comparisions is gonna work with this deal. In your example "creating the opportunity" is the catalyst, just like with leaving the gun behind, but the rest doesn't really jive to me.
I guess I'm having a hard time with letting the "creator" off, basically scott free and then almost hanging the nitwit who took something he should not have taken. My concern is that the penalty is too harsh in this instance considering we let murderers off with less than 10 year sentences....

"This is a clear case of not taking responsibility for one’s actions. “I wouldn’t have stolen that gun if he hadn’t left it there.” Or, I wouldn’t have killed that person if they hadn’t made me so mad, it’s their fault not mine. Really"?

Again, to me, the comparisons here don't work. While I fully understand what you're saying and agree, the punishment seems like overkill. If you knew my kid and depending on what organization you work for, you may...being responsible for one's actions, or inactions, has been preached here, to deaf ears in his case, since he first started creating opportunities for me to meet and chat with local officers.

The next couple paragraphs are speculation and I can neither argue for or against.

As far as laws regarding finding a gun...I personally don't have a clue what those laws are and I'm not entirely sure how I'd handle that situation. I'm not a big gun fan, but I'd not be able to leave that bathroom with that gun lying there, realizing the potential for problems. So, exactly what is the law regarding finding a gun lying around somewhere....?

"I'm still trying to find the part where justice wasn't served"!

Well maybe it would make more sense at this point if I said I thought justice was being over-served? I guess that's my basic problem. I understand and support the "if it aint yours don't touch it" program. Thanks to jr I've had more opportunities to say that than most here I bet. Not bragging either, not proud of it, or him.

rukidding

A prudent individual would surrender the weapon in a reasonable amount of time given the situation; six weeks isn't reasonable and a family member called the Sheriff department, he didn't just turn it in. A lost or stolen weapon needs to be reported within 48 hours in Michigan; this is a good rule of thumb for surrendering a found weapon as well.

Nobody is arguing that the penalty "could be" stiff, depending on the circumstances; lets wait until the decision is made before jumping to conclusions. I'm "guessing" this never sees the inside of a court with probation and community service being the penalty.

zwesterhouse

Two tier system. What would have happened to a CCW holder if they left their firearm in the bathroom? Well we know! Media frenzy would ensue. Target 8 would be all over it on how negligent CCW holders are. The CCW holder would have his permit revoked by the board in a public tar and feather forum. But on the other side of the coin, the guy should have called it in within the hour he had 20 days according the law. As far as the prosecutor's hypothetical "found a wallet" Ya right! he would keep the money and toss it away. Them Prosecutors all go home to nice warm dinner, house on the lake and a trophy wife.

rukidding

You're making assumptions and they aren't appreciated. Believe me the officer will suffer the full scorn of the department and his peers will give him the equivalent of a tar and feathering; more severe and longer in duration than the public version that you mentioned.

We buried a brother officer a week ago that we hired to protect and serve; he gave his life and this is how you repay the members of the department, bad mouth them when a mistake is made?

LessThanAmused

So, are you a local cop? Sheriff? State Police? I guess I don't know which officer you're referring to here. Believe it or not, I miss a lot of the news.

In all seriousness RU, I don't have any personal issues with the local constabulary. I've met quite a few of them, thanks to my son and they've all been decent to me, but I think it's this comment that most folks zone in on when they start dissing law officers.....

"The officer didn't break the law; he made a mistake, which will be dealt with internally"

Internally is the operative word there. Things that are dealt with behind closed doors, out of sight of the common citizen, can easily be misconstrued to have been handled in less than an honorable fashion. That's assuming of course, but that doesn't mean there aren't times when it could/would happen.

I'm sure that the officer involved here is going to be the brunt of jokes for months, if not years to come. I have a fairly good idea how that stuff works from similar personal situations.

rukidding

Officer Paul Butterfield

http://www.woodtv.com/news/michi...

LessThanAmused

Oh duh!...now that you say his name it rings the bell. Yeah, I heard about that, but obviously don't remember everything I read...there's a surprise!

rukidding

Months...Forever! I know it is hard to believe for some people not in the know but police officers are people too, they don’t wear a leotard with an “S”, and do make mistakes. There are department policy and procedure guidelines that all officers have possession of and are held accountable for. The trooper will be dealt with internally as laid out in the manual.

Everybody seems to be taking their eye off the ball here. This guy is saying he isn't responsible for stealing a gun, but he is. Who knows what he might have done with it had a family member not contacted authorities? Who owns the gun isn't an issue here but we're making it one because it was a police officer, that makes news, and people love to go off on the police. To say the police should be held to a higher standard goes without saying. Losing a weapon is a department violation to be dealt with; it is not a violation of the law.

LessThanAmused

Again, a serious question if I ask it right. So, what happens to this officer if some kid finds the gun instead of the guy that did and that kid takes the loaded gun and blows his parents, or ex-girlfriend away? Is the penalty for that officer the same then as now, or is he then in real hot water?
My point if there is one, is that there are different degrees of stupidity and punishment, one has to fit the other or it's a perceived miscarriage of justice. I agree with you that we wait and see what ultimately happens before lynching anybody.

rukidding

God forbid that something like that would happen. If it did the penalty for the officer would be the same. The police officer losing or misplacing a gun, and immediately informing his superiors, has no bearing on the reality that a crime was committed by someone else using that weapon. The person committing the crime is responsible 100% of the time, their actions caused the death. I know everybody wants to blame the officer, but let’s say maybe just this once, we don't...

What say let’s just let the MSP internal machine do what it does, the legal system does what it does, and see how this all shakes out?

LessThanAmused

...

Lanivan

Brings to mind a personal anecdote. The first day I was handed the keys to a new company car, was driving down the street, and was hit broadside by a speeding police vehicle making too wide of a u-turn in haste. Police, my boss, the policeman driving the car, witnesses - all part of the police report written up at the scene of the accident. Which somehow came up missing a few weeks later when the insurance company began processing the claim.

rukidding

So was this ultimately handled correctly in the end? I trust you weren't charged or ticketed and your company vehicle was taken care of with no expense to you or your company, other than maybe a deductible.

I don't understand where these comments are going either. The officer didn't break the law; he made a mistake, which will be dealt with internally. Flanagan broke several laws that are on the books, these aren't made up laws for this particular situation. I don't understand the reference to inequality; the two things share nothing in common. Are some of you upset or angry with the people that protect and serve? Remember we just buried one of our own a couple of weeks ago; frankly I'm taken back by these comments.

Lanivan

I suspect that it was all taken care of properly, although my boss never spoke of it again to me after he initially informed me of the revoltin' development. This was a prominent, long-time business in the community, so I would think it would have been resolved in a timely manner. I was not ticketed or charged, but had to endure the laughs and guffaws of my fellow colleagues - mostly men who were amused beyond words that I, the first woman to receive a company car (a novelty back in those days), was 'involved' in an accident with a police officer on the first day she was given said car.

What triggered this memory for me was the blatant scrubbing of the report file when an officer was clearly at fault. Internally, he may have been punished in some way, but surely justice was not served, in my opinion, by subverting the process and 'hiding' the report.

Wingmaster

You have the right read on this RU. The officer most likely will be dealt with the same as someone misusing/losing a companies equipment.

Willing to bet there is something in the police department rules for weapons that speaks to this.

TooMuch

I bet this is a big deal for the officer in his employee file, with his superiors and his peers. But he didn't break a LAW! It always amazes me and it really should not that they are held to a higher standard, but yet some of you don't even blink an eye when they are killed in the line of duty. Oh yeah, I remember something about that... really? Day after day, time after time they put their LIVES on the line, but hey whatever, no big deal right? I think yes they are held to a higher standard, and yes they should be forgiven a little bit more than the average Joe, but that's just my opinion. Everyone deserves a break but holding the gun for over six weeks and still not turning it over is breaking the law. No break should be given. The family member knew it and did the right thing.

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