VENTNOR, N.J. (KYW Newsradio) — The town of Ventnor and one of its police officers has settled a case for $2 million with the family of a woman who took her own life with her boyfriend’s service weapon.
Kelly Ann McDowell killed herself in 2017 with Lt. Francisco O’Neill’s Ventnor City Police Department-issued Glock, which had been left on the floor of a walk-in closet. O’Neill was a sergeant at the time.
Kelly Ann’s mother, Carol McDowell, says her daughter was struggling with severe depression at the time, and the gun should have been kept out of reach for Kelly Ann and the couple’s five children.
“Police officers need to secure their guns. It shouldn’t be taken lightly,” Carol said.
Attorney Paul D’Amato says the court found the department and O’Neill negligent.
“You still have an obligation to the people that you live with to secure your service-issued weapon and, in a separate place, the ammunition,” D’Amato said.
Attorney Oliver Barry says the case could pave the way for changing how weapons are stored when police are off duty in New Jersey.
“There was a duty of care the officer here had to take reasonable steps to secure his service weapon against foreseeable misuse,” Barry said.
While the family says there’s nothing that can bring back Kelly Ann, her father, Kevin, hopes this will prompt real changes with how police departments inspect weapon storage for off-duty cops.
“They got good policies in place, but obviously everyone isn’t following that, and we don’t want another tragedy like this to happen to another family.”
Ventnor police did not respond to a request for comment.
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