Three days after a Bridgeport police officer accidentally shot himself in the leg, state authorities are taking over the investigation of the incident that rattled a local bagel shop and sparked outcry from across the state.
Mayor Bill Finch had initially ordered the city police department’s internal affairs squad to probe the Tuesday shooting at the Bagel King on Main Street.
But early Friday evening, Police Chief Joseph L. Gaudett Jr. said the state needed to step in.
“After consulting with the State’s Attorney, I decided the best course was to ask the State Police to investigate the incident,” he said. “It is not only important to have a fair and impartial investigation but also that the public have confidence that the investigation is fair and impartial.
“We hold our officers to even higher standards than the civilians they serve,” Gaudett added.
Bridgeport State’s Attorney John Smriga confirmed that his office will be working with the state police in the investigation.
On Friday, Police Chief Joseph Gaudett placed Police officer Juan Santiago on paid administrative leave.
Santiago, a decorated 28-year-old veteran of the department, shot himself in the leg when he picked a .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol up off a table in the bagel restaurant, where a second officer was returning the gun to a friend.
Santiago pointed the gun toward the ground when it discharged, but the bullet ricocheted upward, wounding him and then shattering a window. He was treated at a hospital for his injury and is now on department sick leave.
The incident has prompted outcry from some groups who say that Santiago is getting special treatment because he is a police officer. The groups contend that if a civilian had shot off a gun in the crowded shop, they would have been arrested and charged immediately. One group is organizing a rally in front of the Bridgeport police headquarters on Monday to protest the department’s handling of Santiago.