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Charges dropped in St. Lucie County Sheriff’s deputy off-duty gunfire case

NewsCharges dropped in St. Lucie County Sheriff's deputy off-duty gunfire case

ST. LUCIE COUNTY − Criminal charges have been dropped against a St. Lucie County sheriff’s deputy stemming from an incident in which a rifle discharged, leaving his daughter with a gunshot wound, according to records and a prosecutor. 

Daniel Allan Weber, 35, of Port St. Lucie, wspans spanrrested Nov. 23 by Port St. Lucie police on a felony charge of child neglect with great bodily harm and misdemeanor counts of using a firearm while under the influence of alcoholic beverages and culpable negligence. The charges were dropped Friday, records show.

Weber, who worked at the jail, joined the agency in August 2022.

According to an arrest affidavit, Weber told police he wanted to show his son how to clean his AR-15 rifle. They sat on a sofa in the living room and he put the rifle on a “TV tray.” Weber said he checked it for ammunition and believed it was empty before going to the living room. 

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Weber said the “TV tray” began to fall forward, and the rifle fell forward. He said they reached for the rifle, and it discharged as it hit the ground. 

Weber said he heard a girl start to cry, and learned she sustained a gunshot wound to her left hip and abdomen area. The girl was identified as his 12-year-old daughter.

She was taken to St. Mary’s Medical Center in Palm Beach County and had “immediate surgery due to a shattered pelvis,” arrest records state.

Weber said he drank about six beers. 

The charges were dropped, and Chief Assistant State Attorney Steve Gosnell Monday said a number of issues factored into the decision.

The child abuse great harm charge is premised on culpable negligence, which has a rather high standard, he said.

“Culpable negligence is defined by a course of conduct showing a reckless disregard of human life, or the safety of persons exposed to the dangerous effects,” Gosnell said. “The jury instructions say that culpable negligence is such a high degree of negligence, it’s equivalent to the intentional violation of someone’s rights.”

He described it as “tantamount to doing something on purpose, and you’re causing this kind of a harm.”

Gosnell as an example said if two people are drag racing on a two-lane street, and one of the racers hits an oncoming car in the wrong lane.

“Everybody knows that that could can lead to a head-on (crash) and ultimately a fatality,” he said.

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In this case, Gosnell said Weber is experienced with firearms and was showing his 14-year-old how to clean a rifle. He removed the magazine, and didn’t see a cartridge in the chamber, but Gosnell said there was a cartridge in the chamber, which is something that is not uncommon.

“His statement, and then compared to the 14-year-old’s statement, they said the same thing, that the gun fell, and they went to grab it, and it went off,” Gosnell said.

They weren’t sure whether someone inadvertently hit the trigger as the weapon fell and as they tried to right it as it fell.

“If you just look at it, factually, there’s no way we would ever get a culpable negligence theory off the ground based on this fact pattern,” Gosnell said.

Gosnell said the consumption of alcohol played a role.

In terms of firearms, state law presumes a person to not be impaired with a blood alcohol level of less than 0.05. From 0.05 to 0.1 there is no presumption either way. Greater than 0.1 carries a presumption of impairment, Gosnell said. 

He said Weber’s blood alcohol content measured 0.052. 

By way of comparison, the legal limit to drive a car is 0.08.

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Gosnell said Weber’s actions, demeanor with police on body cam and communication during the 911 call were reviewed.

“Just like on a DUI case, you’re looking to see if the guy seems like he’s impaired regardless of what a BAC (blood alcohol content) says, just how is the guy acting,” Gosnell said. “The evidence on the … body cam videos, as well as the 911 tape, there wasn’t clear evidence that this guy is impaired, as far as slurring his speech, he can’t walk.”

Defense Attorney Ashley Minton, who records show represented Weber, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Weber didn’t successfully complete his probationary term at the sheriff’s office and was fired Dec. 8, according to the sheriff’s office.

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