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Fresno sheriff lacked policy for holsters for secondary guns when sergeant was fatally shot

Deputy Rod Lucas was shot and killed by a fellow deputy.
Deputy Rod Lucas was shot and killed by a fellow deputy. Fresno Bee file

When Fresno County Sheriff’s Sgt. Rod Lucas was accidentally shot last year by a fellow deputy, the sheriff’s office had no approved holsters policy for safely securing secondary guns, the California Occupational Safety & Health Administration investigators told the county.

In a Cal-OSHA report to the county, it was recommended that the county put a policy for approving holsters for backup handguns similar to one that is in effect for primary service weapons.

The recommendation is to have a policy on how to secure a secondary weapon; finding the correct holster for it; and could entail training in how to use it.

“Fresno County Sheriff’s Department shall include procedures in their written Injury and Illness Prevention Program for selecting and approving holsters for secondary/backup handguns, similar to existing procedures for selecting and approving holsters for primary service handguns,” said Ronald Chun, a compliance safety and health officer for Cal-OSHA.

Lucas was shot to death at a sheriff’s office facility near Fresno-Yosemite International Airport on Oct. 31, 2016.

Last week, the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office filed a criminal complaint against sheriff’s Detective Jared Mullis, 34, the deputy whose weapon accidentally discharged, striking Lucas in the chest and killing him at a sheriff’s facility adjacent to Fresno-Yosemite International Airport.

The criminal complaint includes a charge of involuntary manslaughter with a gun enhancement against Mullis in the death of the 46-year-old Lucas.

We are in agreement with the recommendation and are establishing a policy to have procedures in place to approve backup weapon holsters.

Margaret Mims, Fresno County sheriff

The complaint was filed last week following a lengthy investigation, a District Attorney’s Office statement said. Along with the charge is an enhancement for the personal use of a firearm. If that is upheld, it would add to the penalty at sentencing.

The Cal-OSHA report said Lucas and Deputy Jared Mullis were “discussing a gun holster when a weapon discharged and struck one of them in the chest.”

Cal-OSHA confirmed that the weapon, a Smith & Wesson M&P 45 Shield, discharged accidentally.

The county wasn’t fined, but Cal-OSHA’s report said that if the condition wasn’t corrected, there could be financial penalties.

Sheriff Margaret Mims said the policy will be put into effect.

“We are in agreement with the recommendation and are establishing a policy to have procedures in place to approve backup weapon holsters,” Mims said.

The sheriff’s office will have to meet with union representatives on the recommendation. Eric Schmidt, Fresno Deputy Sheriff’s Association president, says the union will back such a policy.

“If the recommendation is to provide a holster for a secondary weapon and provide training that goes along with it, we would support something like that,” he said.

Officials in the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office refused to comment on the case and whether the Cal-OSHA determination, which was sent to the county in May, played a role in their decision to charge Mullis in the incident.

Marc Benjamin: 559-441-6166, @3dogbenjamin

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