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Charges pending for Henry County deputy

By Jason A. Smith

jsmith@henryherald.com

A Spalding County toddler was released from the hospital Saturday following a Friday shooting. The 4-year-old was shot by her twin brother in their Griffin home, according to authorities.

Spalding County Sheriff's Capt. Tony Ranieri said his office is continuing an investigation by reconstructing the shooting scene, to determine if charges should be filed against the twins' father, who is a Henry County Sheriff's deputy.

The Spalding County Sheriff's Office has identified the deputy as Michael Clark, of Griffin.

The shooting took place Friday at approximately 11:30 a.m., at Clark's home on Teamon Road, according to Capt. Ranieri, the chief investigator in the case.

"Our units were dispatched to the location in reference to a person shot," said Ranieri. "The [victim's] mother and father explained that their 4-year-old boy came into possession of his father's Glock, .40 caliber firearm, and shot his twin sister."

Clark's daughter was shot in the hip with the gun, and had to be airlifted to Egleston Children's Hospital, said the captain. "It was a through-and-through shot," said Ranieri. "The bullet did not hit any major arteries or organs."

No charges were filed at the time of the shooting.

"Once we collect all the facts in the case, we will present evidence to the [Spalding] District Attorney's Office, who will make a determination whether Clark will be criminally prosecuted," Ranieri said. "We hope to have a decision [today] or Wednesday."

Henry Sheriff Keith McBrayer said the deputy has worked in the jail for about three years, and described him as a "good officer and a dedicated employee." The deputy, the sheriff said, called Henry Sheriff's authorities Friday to inform them about the shooting.

"From what I understand, he and his wife ... were unloading groceries when this incident occurred," said McBrayer. "It appears that he had placed his weapon on top of a computer cabinet that was about 6 1/2-feet tall, and actually had some trim molding around it. So, the gun wasn't visible. But apparently, the 4-year-old [boy] pulled a stool over, climbed on top, and was able to get the weapon off, and, in playing with the gun, accidentally shot the sister."

The Henry County Sheriff's Office is conducting an investigation to learn whether Deputy Clark followed proper procedures for storing his gun. McBrayer does not believe the deputy was negligent in his actions, and added that the boy "had to make a lot of effort" to retrieve the gun.

"It's not like it was laid on a bed or laid down where a child could [easily] get it," said McBrayer. "He made a point to put it up in an area that he felt sure the child never would know it was there, and couldn't get to [it], and of course, was wrong."

McBrayer said the deputy has not been placed on administrative leave. "He will take a couple of days off and then come back and meet with us and go back to work," McBrayer said.

McBrayer added that the girl appeared to be "fine," when she visited the Sheriff's Office with her father Monday. "She was actually running up and down the hall," said McBrayer. "This is great news, ... because it could have been terrible."