Bridgeport cop charged with mishandling a gun

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Officer Juan Santiago

BRIDGEPORT – Juan Santiago, a 29-year veteran of the city police department, was arrested Monday morning by state police for a Dec. 17 incident in which he accidentally shot himself in a crowded bagel restaurant.
Santiago, 56, surrendered at Troop I in Bethany after being notified there was a warrant for his arrest, State Police said.

He was charged with one count of unlawful discharge of a firearm and released on a promise to appear in Bridgeport Superior Court on Golden Hill Street on Feb. 18, a state police spokesman said.

Santiago was originally scheduled for a Feb. 17 court arraignment, but  that is President’s Day and the courts are closed. Santiago’s lawyer, John R. Gulash, declined comment.

Lt. J. Paul Vance, the state police spokesman, said in a press release that “after an extensive investigation it was determined that the accused mishandled the firearm, which resulted in his own leg injury.”

Santiago had been treated for a minor leg injury from the gunshot wound and released from St. Vincent’s Medical Center a few hours after the incident.

The lack of an arrest in Santiago’s case had drawn two protest rallies to the front of the Bridgeport Police Department, where attendees claimed that the veteran officer was being treated differently because he is a cop.

At the most recent event, on Feb. 4, the protesters demanded to know why Santiago hadn’t be charged while a man who accidentally fired his gun in his home on Jan. 28 had been arrested almost immediately.

The suspect in the January case, 23-year-old Kenneth Sullivan, of Midland Street was charged with unlawful discharge of a firearm, second-degree reckless endangerment and criminal mischief in the third degree. He was released after posting $1,500 bond.

On Tuesday, organizers of the protests said they thought Santiago should’ve faced more charges.

“The officer who was in a public place was probably more reckless and probably endangered more people,” said Palin Smith, who wondered why the officer hadn’t been hit with the same charges as Sullivan.

“It’s still not exactly fair and equal application, but at least it’s something, finally,” Jonathan Hardy, a firearms instructor from Meriden.

Daniel Tepfer