Students injured when Monterey County teacher accidentally fires handgun in class


SEASIDE — A teacher injured three students Tuesday when he accidentally fired a gun inside a Seaside High School classroom, according to reports.

The teacher was identified as Dennis Alexander, a reserve police officer for the Sand City Police Department and a Seaside councilman. Alexander was teaching a course about gun safety as part of his administration of justice class when he fired a single shot from a semi-automatic handgun into the ceiling, the Monterey County Herald and KSBW reported.

One 17-year-old student was hit in the neck by debris or a fragment after the bullet ricocheted off the ceiling, said Seaside police Chief Abdul D. Pridgen. The student was not seriously injured and classes resumed.

The shooting occurs amid intense debate over whether to arm teachers in the wake of the Parkland, Fla. shooting that left 17 dead and another 17 injured. On Wednesday, students across the country are set to walk out of their classrooms to raise awareness about gun violence and safety.

Alexander has taught the course in the past, but Pridgen said he did not know if he had ever brought a loaded firearm to the school before Tuesday, the Herald reported. An investigation is underway.

“We’re looking into any violation of city ordinance or the penal code and we’ll determine whether or not there are any applicable charges,” Pridgen told the Herald.

Alexander had just told the class he wanted to make sure the firearm was not loaded when it went off, Fermin Gonzales, the father of the 17-year-old student who was injured, told KSBW.

“It’s the craziest thing. It could have been very bad,” he said.

Sand City police Chief Brian Ferrante told KSBW, “I have concerns about why he (Alexander) was displaying a loaded firearm in a classroom. We will be looking into that.”

Ferrante said Alexander has been a reserve Sand City police officer for the past 11 years, and described his track record as “positive and professional,” KSBW reported. The 2013 Reserve Office of the Year is also a Seaside City Council member and Red Cross volunteer.

In an email to parents, the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District said, “Upon learning of the incident, our Human Resources department, school site administration and the Seaside Police Department immediately began investigating the incident, including interviewing students in the class.”

The letter also stated that the district is unable to share any other details other than Alexander has been placed on administrative leave for the duration of the on-going investigation.

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