Exclusive: Edmonds investigating its police chief for firing her service weapon

EDMONDS, Wash. — The City of Edmonds has launched an investigation into its police chief, Michelle Bennett, after she allegedly discharged her service weapon in her car at a city fleet refueling facility.

According to Josh McClure, commander of professional standards and media relations for the Edmonds Police Department (EPD), the incident was deemed as an accident.

“Chief (Bennett) was not handling her holstered weapon then, but was retrieving an item from the bag it was stored in during her commute,” McClure told MyNorthwest in a statement. “While maneuvering items in the bag, a key had become wedged between the trigger guard and space in the holster. When force was applied, the weapon discharged.”

The EPD stated Bennett promptly informed the on-duty commander, who subsequently initiated an investigation. The assistant chief was notified about the incident, who then relayed the incident to Mayor Mike Rosen.

Chief Bennett also completed a city damage report, which was forwarded to the EPD’s safety committee, according to McClure. Only the inside of the city vehicle sustained property damage and no injuries were reported. The city fleet later inspected the vehicle to ensure its safety.

“The chief also sent a message to the entire staff, advising them of the incident and encouraging firearms awareness, care and caution,” McClure added.

What happens next is important

“An accidental discharge is not that uncommon. I can remember probably five or six when I was working for the sheriff’s office, so it does happen,” former King County Sheriff John Urquhart said. “It’s a big deal from their standpoint. It’s certainly dangerous and careless at times. I think the bigger issue is how someone reacts to it. Do they try to cover it up? Do they tell the truth? Do they lie about it? That’s really the issue.”

A full investigation is conducted anytime an officer fires or discharges a gun — even if it’s an accident — to check if the gun malfunctioned or if it’s unsafe, how this can be avoided in the future and if any conduct needs to be addressed or changed to avoid a future incident.

“There is going to be a full investigation, which is why it’s so important to report it immediately,” Urquhart said. “Remember, you’re talking about a firearm here, which is a deadly weapon, and people can easily die from even an accidental discharge. It needs to be documented. There needs to be a full investigation of how that happened and why that happened in every single case.”

Washington State Legislature dictates that an officer of the law engaging in unsafe practices involving firearms, weapons or vehicles can lead to denial, suspension or revocation, pending on the severity of the incident.

More on Chief Michelle Bennett

Former Edmonds Mayor Mike Nelson appointed Bennett as chief of the police department in 2021. Working in local law enforcement since 1990, she served as Chief of Police for Maple Valley from 2004 to 2014 and Sammamish from 2016 to 2019 before becoming the Edmonds chief.

Additionally, Bennett has received a bachelor’s degree in law and justice, a Master of Science in psychology/organizational development and behavior and a doctorate in education That degree includes an emphasis in curriculum and instruction. She has taught criminal justice classes throughout local colleges for decades.

The investigation is currently still open, according to the EPD. The incident was forwarded to Mike Rosen, the current mayor, for his review.

“The biggest job we have as police officers is upholding and reassuring the public that we are trustful. That they can trust us and trust what we do and what we say,” Urquhart said. “It’s incredibly important that this occurs each and every time. That’s one of the reasons why it’s absolutely so important to be honest about when situations like this, or any other situation, arise.”

Contributing: Kate Stone, KIRO Newsradio

Frank Sumrall is a content editor at MyNorthwest. You can read his stories here and you can email him here.

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