Document: Jackson Co. Sheriff fired weapon in office near secretary

JACKSON, Mich. (WLNS) -- Jackson County Sheriff Steve Rand is facing new accusations.

In addition to claims of discrimination and derogatory comments, Rand is now accused of firing his gun in his office.

6 News has the details on this new twist to an already shocking story.

Lieutenant Tommy Schuette is suing Sheriff Rand for discrimination and creating a hostile work environment.

To help build his case, Schuette gave 6 News a document that outlines an unreported shooting in the sheriff's office.

Schuette says the document was written last August by a detective who heard the shooting.

"He says, 'I looked in and saw a surprised look on the secretary's face. The sheriff was standing directly in front of her desk holding a firearm and it had went off'," Schuette said in a recent interview.

The document says gunfire hit the floor and wall, close to where the secretary was sitting.

"He later interviewed the secretary and said 'Yeah, he plays with his gun quite a bit but this time he didn't realize it was loaded'," Schuette said.

He says an official report was never made because employees fear retaliation for reporting the sheriff's misconduct.

The long-time employee of the sheriff's office believes a formal report should have been made so the incident could have been looked at further.

Schuette says he's suing Rand because he'd taunt him about a hearing disability, and threaten to fire him because of it.

Before he stopped worked at the sheriff's office in October, Schuette says he had the detective write up a report of the shooting incident and obtained a copy of the document.

Undersheriff Chris Kuhl says the shooting was an accidental discharge that happened while the sheriff was trying to clear bullets from a non-departmental weapon.

"The sheriff has never had any issues relating to firearms in his 25 years of service, he is proficient in handling of firearms," Kul said in an email to 6 News.

He says a formal report wasn't necessary because these matters are handled internally.

"This was dealt with like any other accidental discharge that has happened in the past. These disciplinary matters are not reported to county officials and handled within the department like any other discipline," Kuhl said.

Kuhl says the sheriff came to him for disciplinary action, but did not say what kind of discipline was issued.

"He was not engaged in any type of law enforcement action or activity, no one was hurt and he was in his office. No accidental discharge has ever been sent for prosecutorial review on charges that were similar to this matter," Kuhl said.

Wayne State University Law Professor Will Ortman says careless discharge of a firearm is a misdemeanor.

While it's not clear what happened with the sheriff, Ortman believes another department should have investigated.

"Take a look to decide whether the statute was violated. You'd really want someone independent of the sheriff's office to make that discrimination," Ortman said. "It's pretty unrealistic to expect that a subordinate would be able to independently review what the boss had done."

Messages to Sheriff Rand for comment were not returned.

Right now it's not clear if Jackson County government or an outside law enforcement agency is looking into the shooting incident.

However, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners recently passed a resolution calling on Rand to resign because of the recent scandal.

Michigan State Police confirms an ongoing criminal investigation into the sheriff's office that has nothing to do with the discrimination lawsuit.

Schuette says he brought up the shooting, along with a variety of other concerns, to county officials but they were dismissive.

County administration is insistent they didn't know that a shooting took place and they did nothing wrong.


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