Evidence about the gun used in the fatal shooting of Greeneville police Sgt. Roger Self was presented Thursday at the trial of his son, Ethan A. Self.
Self, 21, is charged with first-degree murder. He admitted to authorities he was holding his father’s Glock service weapon on March 24, 2010, when the gun went off, killing Roger Self as he slept in his bed.
Steve Scott, a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) special agent whose areas of expertise include firearms and ballistics, testified that he tested the handgun recovered from a pond in Hardin Park, where Ethan Self had thrown it after the shooting.
Scott also examined a cartridge case and live cartridge from the pistol, along with other components of the .40 caliber semi-automatic pistol.
Tests were also performed on a bullet found on a pillow under Roger Self’s head.
The cartridge case had jammed in the gun after a bullet was fired, a phenomenon called a “stovepipe.”
The stovepipe effect could have happened because the person who fired it didn’t have a firm grip on the pistol when it discharged, Scott said.
“I found no dysfunction in the gun at all. I fired it 11 times, and it did not stovepipe at all,” Scott told lead prosecutor Tony Clark.
The Glock pistol has three safety mechanisms, two of them internal, Scott said. The other safety is built into the trigger and is deactivated when a certain amount of pressure is placed on it, Scott said.
All the safety mechanisms on Roger Self’s service weapon were in working order, Scott testified.
To fire the weapon, about 8-3/4 pounds of pressure is required on the trigger, Scott said.
“It’s a normal trigger pull on a Glock pistol,” he said. “The Glock pistol has a very definitive stopping point once the trigger is depressed.”
The gun may have been fired because of “limp wristing,” or gripping it in an improper manner, Scott said.
“The wrist needs to be locked into place so the pistol has a good, solid platform,” he testified. “One of the best things a person can do is keep their finger off the trigger until the gun is trained (at a target).”
Jurors were given the opportunity to examine the gun.
“When the pistol is loaded, it cycles itself,” Scott said.
Self, seated at the defense table on the other side of the courtroom, averted his eyes as the pistol was passed from juror to juror.
Scott told Clark that an accidental discharge in a Glock pistol generally happens if “something went wrong with the gun.”
“That is not the case here,” Scott said. “I found no malfunction or dysfunction.”
“As far as intent, I cannot judge the intent of anyone who pulled the trigger of this firearm,” he said.
The stovepipe effect “was the best evidence of an unintentional firing,” Clark said.
With the jury out of the courtroom, defense lawyer Herbert Moncier emphasized the distinction between an unintentional discharge, as opposed to an accidental discharge.
“The only way that the firearm could have been discharged was pulling the trigger. I can’t determine intent,” Scott said.
Scott ran gunpowder and lead residue tests on a comforter covering Roger Self’s head when he was shot. It had two bullet holes from the single shot that was fired.
Lack of gunpowder and lead residue particles on the comforter indicates that the shot was not fired any closer than four feet, Scott said.
“Someone who holds that weapon who has no training to fire this gun wouldn’t know the technical way to hold the gun,” Moncier said.