Another ‘accidental’ shooting at home linked to shooting death

Lee’s note: I just published this story in the Herald-Tribune. It’s one of the follow-up stories to the May 16 death of David Morse, who was killed by a stray .22 round fired by backyard plinkers 200 yards away.

SARASOTA — About a month before investigators say a fatal round was fired from the backyard at 4632 N. Shade Ave. — a bullet that struck and killed 48-year-old David Morse who was watering plants 200 yards away — another accidental shooting occurred at the home.

On April 27 at about 1 p.m., according to Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office reports, Todd Johnson, 29, shot himself in the knee with a .40 caliber Glock 22 “while cleaning his gun.”

Johnson is the son of April Lipstein, who is listed as the home’s owner.

Sarasota County Sheriff’s Deputy Hayden Gallof was sent to the scene, along with paramedics.

Gallof was among the first responders sent to the 2400 block of 47th Street a month later when Morse was killed.

Deputy Gallof noted in his April 27 report that at the hospital, “Mr. Johnson stated he thought the gun was empty after he removed the magazine and when he pulled the trigger, which is required on Glock handguns to disassemble them, the gun discharged.”

“At first Mr. Johnson did not think he was injured, but then he felt a burning pain in his knee,” the report states. “Mr. Johnson looked down and observed a gunshot to his knee, with an exit wound on the same knee. He then called 911 for help.”

The deputy interviewed Lipstein, Johnson’s mother, who told him she did not think the shooting was a suicide attempt, “and that she fully believes this was an accident.”

More recent shooting

It is not known whether Johnson was present at 4632 N. Shade on May 16, when investigators believe someone at the residence fired the round that killed Morse and others that struck a nearby condominium in the 2400 block of Golf Course Drive.

Someone at the Lipstein home had hung a target on a wooden fence at the rear of the property.

The fatal round passed through the thin wood, easily, and traveled about 200 yards before it struck Morse at the base of the neck.

Contacted Monday, Johnson said he had “no comment” and hung up the phone, but minutes later, Bradenton attorney Mark Zimmerman called the Herald-Tribune.

Zimmerman said the Lipsteins retained him because “they’ve been advised that something may have occurred at their residence that’s the subject of a criminal investigation.”

“I have been retained to advise them during that investigation,” the attorney said. “If someone were charged, I would represent them in that case, but I have no indication anyone will be charged.”

Zimmerman acknowledged that investigators executed a search warrant at the home, and that they “took things,” but he would not say whether the family is “cooperating fully.”

“That’s a very loaded term,” he said. “Some statements were given. Because this investigation is ongoing, I have not been provided details of the statements.”

Zimmerman declined to say who was target shooting on May 16, where the fatal round was fired, or if the family has any regrets about Morse’s death.

“How could they comment? They’re not even sure what did or did not occur,” he said. “Having discussed the articles written by the newspaper related to the death of Mr. Morris, I could tell from my observation of their demeanor, the family is deeply troubled by Mr. Morse’s loss, but no one has authorized me to make any statement. The family is looking forward to the conclusion of the investigation.”

Click here to read the rest of the story.

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About Author

Lee Williams can’t remember a time in his life when he wasn’t shooting. Before becoming a journalist, Lee served in the Army and worked as a police officer. He’s earned more than a dozen journalism awards as a reporter, and three medals of valor as a cop. He is an NRA-certified law enforcement firearms instructor, an avid tactical shooter and a training junkie. When he’s not busy as a senior investigative reporter, he is usually shooting his AKs, XDs and CZs. If you don’t run into him at a local gun range, you can reach him at 941.284.8553, by email, or by regular mail to 1777 Main St., Sarasota, FL 34236. You can follow him on Twitter: @HT_GunWriter and on Facebook @The Gun Writer.

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