A Baltimore police officer who shot a trainee in the head by mistake during a training exercise was sentenced to two months in jail.
The incident occurred in February, when William S. Kern, a 19-year veteran of the Baltimore Police Department, grabbed his gun instead of a training pistol during a simulation at Rosewood Center in Owings Mills. He shot recruit Raymond Gray in the head, blinding him in one eye.
Kern, 46, was initially charged with second-degree assault, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years of jail time, and reckless endangerment, which carries a maximum sentence of five years. Jurors did not find him guilty of second-degree assault.
He was sentenced to 18 months at the Baltimore County Detention Center, but all but 60 days were suspended, according to the Baltimore Sun. The Republic reported via Associated Press that he will also have to undergo psychiatric counseling.
Kern testified that he brought his weapon to the training for safety purposes, and mistakenly shot the live gun instead of a “simunition” paintball gun in a moment of recklessness. He fired through a window where Gray and other recruits were standing, in order to demonstrate that it is dangerous to stand around windows, doors, and hallways.
Prosecutors, and the police department, said Kern should never have carried a live weapon during training. The police department also claimed that it did not know Rosewood Center, a state facility for people with developmental disabilities, was being used for training.
"You don't have multiple safeguards to make sure those weapons have been secured, to make sure they have been checked and rechecked, to make sure they have been unloaded and the bullets have been seized— you have nothing in place to do that?" said Gray’s lawyer, A. Dwight Pettit, who represented Gray at the civil lawsuit against the police department.
Gray, who is reportedly in his 40s, has made a good recovery, all things considered. Petit said Gray remembers nothing about the shooting. After being hospitalized for months in critical condition, he is now in therapeutic treatment. He underwent surgery to replace the eye he lost. The bullet is still lodged in his brain.
Gray’s family is dissatisfied with the punishment Kern received.
“We feel like he just got off scot-free," said a woman who identified herself as Gray’s aunt as she left the courtroom.
"I'm sorry for the grief that I caused," Kern said at the sentencing hearing. "This is something that I am going to live with for the rest of my life."