The Tribune-Star, Terre Haute, Ind.
Nov. 18—A South Vermillion High School student sustained a non-life-threatening injury Thursday morning after an accidental gun discharge by a law enforcement officer during a vocational class drill.
The student was taken to a hospital and was expected to receive stitches, with no surgery required, said Sgt. Matt Ames of the Indiana State Police, which is investigating the accidental shooting.
According to Ames, at about 9:36 a.m., Tim DisPennett, a 19-year veteran of the Vermillion County Sheriff’s Office and a full-time deputy, was conducting a law enforcement vocational class at the high school in Clinton.
“They were doing scenarios today. During the course of the scenarios, there was an accidental discharge from his service weapon striking a student,” Ames said.
Once the student was struck, first aid was immediately provided and the student was transported to Union Hospital in Terre Haute with non-life-threatening injuries, Ames said.
Ames spoke to Superintendent Dave Chapman, and the wounds appeared to be superficial requiring stitches and no surgery.
ISP will investigate the circumstances of the accidental shooting at the request of Vermillion County Sheriff Mike Phelps.
DisPennett was providing instruction as part of the class. He is a school resource officer “but that was not the duties he was performing here today,” Ames said. “He was being an instructor.”
DisPennett has been placed on administrative leave, which is customary in these types of situations, Ames stated in a news release.
The release further stated, “This is an active and ongoing Indiana State Police investigation. There is no further information to release at this time. Upon completion of the investigation, Indiana State Police detectives will submit a full report of the incident to the Vermillion County Prosecutor’s Office for review.”
Phelps by email stated that DisPennett was on vacation from the sheriff’s office at the time the incident occurred. DisPennett is one of the two teachers of the law enforcement vocational class there.
The school district put out a statement on its website:
“This morning at South Vermillion High School, there was an isolated incident in one of the vocational classrooms.
The incident was an accidental discharge of a firearm by a law enforcement officer during a drill.
One student was injured without life-threatening injuries and has been taken to the hospital. Only South Vermillion High School is currently on lockdown, due to the abundance of emergency personnel in the building.”
By late morning, school was back to normal procedures, Chapman said. “Kids are eating lunch now. I know there are a lot of kids wanting to go home.” As long as parents sign them out, they were allowed to do so, he said.
“It was an isolated incident. There was no threat. There was no danger to any students afterward. It was an accident that happened,” Chapman said. “We’re dealing with it from that end.”
The class involved was a law enforcement career-technical class and they were doing demonstration drills, “confronted with a bad guy,” he said.
The class uses “dummy guns.”
Chapman said he didn’t know all the details, but “somehow, the instructor reached for the dummy gun and got his service revolver and fired that accidentally.”
Students only use dummy guns in the class, he said.
The instructor is a 19-year veteran of the sheriff’s department, “so it’s hard to fathom how that happened. But I wasn’t there so I don’t know,” Chapman said.
The district plans to review what happened, and that discussion will involve the vocational director, sheriff’s office and district officials.
They will look at “what went wrong, what we need to look at changing and do whatever it is we need to do,” Chapman said.
While the school was temporarily on lockdown, afterward, several students contacted parents and wanted to go home. “I don’t know a lot will be going on educationally the rest of the day,” he said.
Counselors were going to be available for students, especially those in the class where the incident happened.
When the incident first occurred, initially some false information was being spread in the community, Chapman said. The district quickly posted information on its webpage.
Administrators did what they needed to do in responding, and “the response was exactly what we needed it to be,” Chapman said.
Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or at firstname.lastname@example.org Follow Sue on Twitter @TribStarSue
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