NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - A Newport News Police officer is facing charges after police said his toddler accidentally shot and killed himself with the officer’s gun.
Officer Stefhone McCombs was charged Feb. 8 with allowing access to firearms by a child, a misdemeanor.
Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew said he spoke with McCombs the night the shooting happened and as recently as Friday afternoon to check up on him.
“I know it still weighs on him,” said Drew. “I feel can the pain in his…I can see that.”
In an interview with News 3 Friday, he said McCombs is a good, well-respected officer and that he just made a mistake.
“Officer McCombs made a mistake, and it’s one that he will have to live with, regrettably for the rest of his life,” Drew said.
Chief Drew said, in October, McCombs came home from dinner and took his service gun off. He allegedly left his gun unsecured on the couch when his 2-year-old son got ahold of it and shot himself. He died a short time later.
McCombs has been suspended with pay since the incident. However, it wasn’t until his court appearance earlier this week on Tuesday when that charge came to light, four months after the shooting.
“We handled this case just like we would any other case,” Drew said.
The chief is standing by the misdemeanor charge, saying after a thorough investigation by detectives, they felt it was appropriate.
“There was no threat to the community,” said Drew. “We’re not talking about felony child neglect here. There was no intent or malice; there was no willful act. There was no disregard for human life. There was no gross negligence.”
Drew called this a tragic accident. He said after questioning McCombs, he found out that leaving his gun unsecured wasn’t something he did routinely. He said it was an oversight.
To help prevent these types of tragedies, Drew suggests using gun locks, and safety boxes, and keeping firearms out of reach and unloaded at home.
Even still, Drew said no one is perfect, including those in blue.
“The men and women who put on this uniform, this badge, we are held to a higher standard, as we should be,” he said. “But I also know that we’re human and that we make mistakes. This was a tragic, tragic event. There is nothing, nothing I can do administratively, nothing that can happen in a court system. There is nothing that is going to equal the loss of that child.”
McCombs has been with the force for a little more than a year. Drew said he'll remain on suspension pending the outcome of the case. He is not in jail.
McCombs has a status hearing scheduled for March 16. He could face up to a year behind bars.
The Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney is now handling the case after being asked to take it over by the Newport News Commonwealth’s Attorney.
Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney Ramin Fatehi told News 3, this allows for an independent and fair investigation.