ATLANTA (AP) — A prosecutor said Thursday that he plans to seek a misdemeanor charge — but no felony — against a suburban Atlanta police chief who told investigators he went to bed with a loaded gun and accidentally shot his wife after mixing alcohol and sleep medicine.
District Attorney Scott Ballard said Thursday he will seek to indict Peachtree City police Chief William McCollom next month on a charge of reckless misconduct, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison. Ultimately, a grand jury will decide whether to charge the chief.
Ballard said evidence supported McCollom's story that the New Year's Day shooting was an accident. But the prosecutor said it also could have been avoided. He said the chief told investigators he drank alcohol and took medication to help him sleep, and ended up sleeping with his loaded service weapon under the sheets between McCollom, 58, and his wife.
"I can't see any intent to hurt her. He didn't have any motive," District Attorney Scott Ballard told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.
"The criminal activity, if the grand jury indicts, is he recklessly brings a gun to bed with him after having ingested sleep medication and alcohol," Ballard said. He said he plans to present the case to a grand jury April 15.
The chief called 911 at 4:17 a.m. Jan 1 and told a dispatcher that he shot his wife, Margaret, 58, while they both slept in their home, about 30 miles southwest of Atlanta. Margaret McCollom later told investigators at the hospital that she was asleep at the time but believed it was an accident.
"The gun was in the bed, I went to move it, and I put it to a side and it went off," McCollom told a dispatcher, according to a recording of the call.
McCollom and his attorney, Tom Cook, didn't immediately respond to phone calls Thursday.
Ballard said the investigation showed McCollom woke during the night when he heard barking dogs, prompting him to take his handgun from its holster on a dresser and check his house. Finding nothing, McCollom returned to bed with the gun and told investigators he woke next to the sound of his gun firing, Ballard said. The chief suspects he might have been trying in his sleep to move the gun to the nightstand, the prosecutor said.
City officials placed the former firearms instructor on administrative leave during the criminal investigation. McCollom still faces an internal investigation into whether he broke any of the department's rules or procedures.
Margaret McCollom remains at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, where she is being treated for paralysis below the waist and numerous complications, Ballard said.
McCollom has worked in policing for nearly 30 years in Wyoming, Florida and Georgia. Personnel records reviewed by The Associated Press showed no evidence of criminality, serious misconduct or recklessness in his past.
Court records show McCollom has divorced four times, including once from Margaret McCollom, the woman he shot. It's unclear whether William and Margaret McCollom ever remarried, though investigators have described them as husband and wife. None of McCollom's divorce filings describe any instances of violence.
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