KNOXVILLE—The Oak Ridge police lieutenant who sent deactivated .38-caliber pistol ammunition and live .223-caliber rifle rounds rather than blanks for use in a training session three years ago was negligent, an attorney said Thursday.
But the mistake was detected before the live rounds were put into guns, and there was no imminent danger or harm to anyone, said Benjamin K. Lauderback, who represented the City of Oak Ridge in oral arguments before the Tennessee Court of Appeals in Knoxville on Thursday.
The police officer who detected the error, former Oak Ridge Police Department Sgt. Mark Coffey, filed a formal complaint two days after the August 20, 2011, training session, known as an “active shooter” response. He resigned a few months later in October, and in August 2012, he filed a lawsuit in Anderson County Circuit Court alleging retaliation and wrongful discharge.
In the lawsuit, Coffey said other ORPD employees retaliated against him after he filed the complaint against Lt. Brad Jenkins, who supplied the ammunition. Coffey said he had been forced to resign and was “constructively discharged.” Before he left the job, Coffey said, he had been re-assigned to work under Jenkins, and he resigned because of the alleged retaliation and fears for his personal safety. He sought $600,000 in compensatory and punitive damages.
The city won a summary judgement, which is like a dismissal, in August 2013. Anderson County Circuit Court Judge Don Elledge did not find that Coffey’s working conditions were bad enough that an ordinary person couldn’t tolerate them, Lauderback said. [Read more…]