A young Des Moines girl was wounded last night after a law officer’s shotgun went off at a family fun event in a capitol city park. Polk County Sheriff’s Deputy Keith Onley’s cruiser was on display during Clowns at the Carousel in Des Moines’ Union Park. The squad car was open for tours and an unidentified boy apparently pulled the trigger on the shotgun, which was secured in the gun rack.
Department spokesperson, deputy Jana Rooker says a by-stander, three-year-old Ashya Wade, was hit in the arm and chest. Rooker says, "We’re not sure what she was actually hit by, whether it was the pellets from the shotgun or if it was the glass coming through as it was punctured and flew out towards the crowd."
She says the back door on the driver’s side of the squad car was open and the shotgun blast blew out a small window on the back door. The girl’s injuries are said to be non-life-threatening, though she’s reportedly still in the hospital. Rooker could not say whether Deputy Onley, who’s been on the force about 12 years, will be facing a reprimand or suspension over what happened.
Rooker says, "There definitely could be and I don’t think that that has been decided yet by our administration here at the sheriff’s office, so I’m not sure what kind of repercussions there may be." She says there are differing reports from witnesses as to exactly what happened and it’s unclear if the deputy left the gun ready to fire.
"By our policy, there can be shells in the magazine however not in the chamber," Rooker says. "In order for the gun to fire, there had to be one in the chamber at the time the trigger was pulled. How that shell actually got in the chamber is yet to be determined." The case is under investigation by both the sheriff’s office and Des Moines police.
In early June, another incident involving a Polk County deputy’s shotgun resulted in the death of an Urbandale man who was threatening suicide. In an effort to subdue the man, the deputy shot him with what was supposed to be a "beanbag" or non-lethal round. The shell was actually a regular round and the man died.