- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 5, 2001

BALTIMORE (AP) — Baltimore police say they are focusing more on incidents in which people accidentally shoot themselves, saying the victims often can be linked to crimes.
Fifty persons in Baltimore have shot themselves by accident this year, mostly with illegal handguns, police detectives said.
The incidents often occur as the victims attempt to pull loaded handguns from their waistbands or pants pockets. Their fingers become stuck on the trigger, and they end up firing a bullet into their leg or groin.
"Pulling it out to use it is obviously a problem," said Col. Robert M. Stanton, who heads the department's detective division.
Over the past two years, police have devoted more resources to investigating these cases, which represent about 9 percent of all nonfatal shootings. They say the victims often have information about or have committed crimes.
"We want to get the guns off the streets," said Detective Robert Dohony, who has handled four accidental shootings this year. "These are the people doing the shootings and homicides. You could use these shootings as a barometer. It just shows you how many people are carrying guns."
Detectives say Brandon Spencer, 24, shot himself in the upper thigh one night in June, hours after he was accused of firing into a crowd of people and hitting a 26-year-old man in the chest. Mr. Spencer was charged with attempted murder.
Police sometimes charge the wounded with illegally discharging a firearm and, often, lying to police.
In July, a 17-year-old boy told police he was shot in the right leg by unknown attackers in northwest Baltimore, said Detective Gregory Robinson. Police saw no bullet hole in his jeans shorts, but they did find one in his pocket.
"What he said didn't gibe," Detective Robinson said. "The wound looked self-inflicted to me."
Another 17-year-old told investigators he was shot by an unknown gunman in the inside part of his left palm.
"That's a one-in-a-billion shot," Detective Robinson said. "You would hit the lottery before that would happen."
In fact, the teen was clearing a jammed handgun when it fired, Detective Robinson said.


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