Gun in plane carry-on bag accidentally fired by police officer

Eric Pfeiffer

Have gun, will travel--just not through airport security.

A man who brought his gun into an Atlanta airport was arrested after a police officer accidentally fired it.

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents at a security checkpoint discovered Richard Popkin's .22 Magnum revolver while he was making his way through Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on Sunday. Popkin cooperated with authorities, and was showing police officer N.J. Phillips, whom TSA agents had summoned to the scene, how to clear the gun of ammunition when Phillips accidentally fired the gun.

"The weapon was pointed down towards the screening table," Phillips wrote in his report. "I was grazed by a pellet fragment on the left side of my face. However, there were no visible injuries."

The gun was reportedly loaded with "snake shot" a low-caliber form of ammunition used for hunting small animals and in target practice. Popkin, 43, told Phillips he'd meant to send the bag through checked luggage but forgot about the gun.

It's unlikely he'll make that mistake again. Popkin was arrested and charged with carrying a deadly weapon at a public gathering, according to the police report.

"TSA also has opened an investigation and has the authority to level a civil penalty when a firearm is brought to a checkpoint," the agency said in a statement. The TSA says it has discovered more than 1,100 firearms at checkpoints this year alone.

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