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Stoneman Douglas Teacher Is Arrested After Leaving Gun In Bathroom Stall

Broward Sheriff's deputies surround a men's bathroom at the Deerfield Beach pier in Florida, where a loaded gun was found — after fired — on Sunday.
Joe Cavarett/Sun-Sentinel
TNS via Getty Images
Broward Sheriff's deputies surround a men's bathroom at the Deerfield Beach pier in Florida, where a loaded gun was found — after fired — on Sunday.

Sean Simpson, a teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, has spoken in favor of gun control efforts and said he might be open to the idea of carrying a gun in class. Now, he has been arrested after leaving his Glock 9 mm pistol in a bathroom over the weekend.

Simpson told the authorities that he had forgotten the loaded weapon in a stall in the bathroom at the Deerfield Beach pier. But before he could retrieve the pistol,the Sun-Sentinel reports, "a drunk homeless man found it and fired it, according to an arrest report from the Broward Sheriff's Office."

No one was injured in the incident, but Simpson, 43, was arrested and charged with failing to safely store the weapon. He posted $250 bond, according to local media.

Joseph Spataro, the man who picked up the gun, told police that he pulled the trigger to find out whether the weapon was loaded. He has been charged with firing a weapon while intoxicated and trespassing, Local 10 TV news reports.

Simpson, who is a chemistry teacher, was working at Stoneman Douglas High on the February day when 17 people were killed in a shooting rampage. After the shooting, the idea of arming teachers gained momentum in some quarters. And while Simpson has said he was open to the idea of getting training to carry a gun inside school, he has also spoken out to praise and support the Parkland, Fla., students who have called for improved gun control, particularly on high-powered, rapid-firing weapons.

"These students are going to stand up, they're going to speak from their hearts, and they're not going to be silenced," Simpson told NBC in an interview during a student march days after the attack.

Simpson called the idea of arming teachers to protect against school shootings "a tough question."

"I know there are some of us that are willing to take the training if it was offered and probably be another line of defense," Simpson told NBC. "But again, that is a complicated subject and I'm not sure if it's the answer. I think it's easier to get these types of weapons out of the hands of people that aren't meant to do anything but kill. They're not meant for hunting."

Simpson also talked about the unequal challenge of a school security officer using a pistol to face off against a semi-automatic rifle, saying, "It's horrible."

When Local 10 reached Simpson by phone to ask about his arrest, he didn't offer any comment other than to say he doesn't think he broke any school rules.

The station reports, "He continues to teach at Stoneman Douglas, and a Broward County School Board spokeswoman said the district is not expected to take any professional action against him in the case."

In the wake of the shootings in Parkland, Florida's legislature approved a $67 million program that provides funding to school districts to train teachers to carry guns. As NPR reported, "the lawmakers rejected a statewide ban on assault weapons and limits on high-capacity magazines."

Earlier this week, the Broward County Public Schools Board unanimously voted "to reject the state's new program to arm school staff in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High shootings," the Miami Herald reports.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: April 12, 2018 at 12:00 AM EDT
A previous version of this story incorrectly said 17 students were killed in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. However, the victims included teachers and staff.
Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.

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