Weapon is found in investigation of officer shot on Guam
June 10, 2005
Navy officials on Guam now are investigating whether a Navy officer shot in the shoulder at Polaris Point on Sunday inflicted the gunshot wound on himself.
On Monday, Navy divers found the weapon believed used in about 30 feet of water off the wharf where the incident occurred, said Petty Officer 2nd Class Ben Keller, a U.S. Naval Base Guam spokesman.
The .25-caliber handgun was registered in California to the lieutenant junior grade, Keller said. The officer is assigned to the San Diego-based nuclear-powered submarine USS Helena, which left Guam on Monday after a routine port visit. The Navy has not released his name and age.
Investigators are looking into “the possibility that that is the gun that shot him,” Keller said. “More answers will come once investigators are able to interview and question the victim. Because of medical concerns, they haven’t been able to do that.”
The officer was flown Monday afternoon to Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii, where he was to have undergone vascular and muscular surgery. Keller said he believes the surgery had been performed and that the sailor was in stable condition.
The shooting occurred shortly after 10 p.m. Sunday while the sailor made rounds behind at least one guarded access gate at Polaris Point, where submarines at Guam typically moor. He said someone shot him from the front and that he was able to fire off one round as the shooter fled, Navy officials initially reported.
“After an extensive search, investigators have thus far ruled out the possibility of an intruder as the cause of the gunshot wound suffered by a Navy officer from USS Helena,” said a Navy statement released Tuesday night.
A fired, empty bullet casing found at the scene of the shooting is believed to be from the small-caliber, non-Navy-issued gun divers recovered in the water, Keller said. Investigators have been unable to confirm that the bullet hitting the sailor also came from the gun because the bullet is lodged in his left shoulder, Keller said. “They’re planning on leaving the bullet in as to not risk any further medical damage to his body,” he said.
Keller said investigators also found an unfired casing — a bullet — from the officer’s Navy-issued 9 mm gun on the ground where the shooting occurred.
No one witnessed the shooting, Keller said.
He declined to speculate on what charges the officer might face if found to have shot himself. Lt. Arwen Chisholm, U.S. Naval Base Guam spokeswoman, told the island’s Pacific Daily News that a number of charges could be brought against the officer if he did indeed wound himself, such as falsifying information, conduct unbecoming of an officer and having a non-Navy-issued weapon on a submarine.
“Right now, he’s still considered a victim, so we’re not releasing any information specifically about him,” Keller said.
The Naval Criminal Investigative Service currently is leading the investigation, he said.