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Bellevue chief: Rifle left unattended while officer negotiated with suspect

'Mistakes happen'
Police: Leaving rifle unattended was ‘mistake'
Posted at 2:05 PM, Jan 25, 2018

DAYTON, Ky. -- A police officer made a “mistake” when he left a patrol rifle unattended near a sidewalk as police responded to a domestic situation, Dayton Police Chief David Halfhill said. 

Dayton and Bellevue police officers responded to the 1000 block of 5th Avenue Wednesday afternoon after a man came out of a home and fired a round into the air, Halfhill said. At some point, an officer from “another agency” set his rifle against a car, according to Dayton police. 

Halfhill thanked Dayton residents who brought the incident to the police department’s attention and said the “mistake will be fully investigated.” 

“It is unfortunate that this incident happened, but we as police officers are human and do make mistakes,” Halfhill said in a news release. 

But who was responsible for leaving the rifle? While Dayton police said an officer from "another agency" left the rifle, Bellevue police pointed at a Dayton officer as being the last one holding it.

"I have been here 30 years and I don’t remember anything like this happened before," Bellevue Chief Lee Estepp said Thursday evening.

Estepp shared body camera video of Officer Mark Chapman, the officer to whom the rifle belonged, responding to the incident. According to Estepp, Chapman led negotiations with the subject of the call: A drunk man who had lost his job and subsequently became involved in a violent altercation with another resident of the home.

"I will make sure everybody else stays back," Chapman, still holding the rifle, promises the suspect at one point in the video. "I will come over. I will meet you in the street."

"I want you to come over and talk to me," the suspect replies. "Put the f---ing gun down."

The video shows Chapman handing his rifle to a Dayton officer and approaching the suspect, who calms down and agrees to be taken into custody. Shortly afterward, another officer informs Chapman that neighbors discovered his rifle lying unattended against the side of the car.

"I gave it to Brett to hold when I came across the street," Chapman says.

"And Brett put it down," the other officer replies.

Before another officer retrieved the rifle, Dayton resident Matt Haas recorded a video he would later post to Facebook, which has been shared more than 1,000 times since 3 p.m. Wednesday.

Estepp said he did not believe Chapman had done anything wrong in the incident.

"As far as I am concerned, he should be commended for his ability in what he did with the subject to get him to come out," he said. "Everybody was safe. Nobody was injured. I know it looks bad with the gun being left out but under the circumstances, mistakes happen."

He added that Haas was welcome to come to the Bellevue Police Department to watch the body camera footage himself.