Whitfield County Juvenile Court judge fired gun in office, sheriff's office report says

Whitfield County Juvenile Court judge fired gun in office, sheriff's office report says

August 18th, 2019 by Patrick Filbin in Local Regional News

A Whitfield County, Georgia, judge accidentally fired a gun in his office in March but wasn't given a citation after the case was administratively closed.

Philip Woodward, the Whitfield County Juvenile Court judge, fired a gun in his office on March 13 and left courthouse employees worried about their safety, according to an incident report from the Whitfield County Sheriff's Office.

At about 3:30 p.m., Woodward was alone in his office at the Whitfield County Courthouse when he was handling his new Glock 43X, the report states.

Woodward told detectives he took out the magazine and racked the gun to verify that it was empty. He then put the magazine back in and must have chambered a round.

Woodward had the gun pointed to the floor under his desk and squeezed the trigger. The gun went off, sending a bullet into the floor. Woodward said he was "just getting a feel for the gun," according to the incident report.

The bullet caused damage to the floor, carpet and the wood of the underside of the desk.

Several employees of the courthouse were in the office when the gun went off. Some told detectives they thought Woodward had been either shot through the window or shot himself.

A minute or two after the gun went off, Woodward came out of his office and told staffers that he had an accident, the report said.

The next day, Woodward apologized to his staff and said he would no longer have guns in his office. He also told staff that the only thing he did right in the situation was to point the gun toward the ground.

After talking to detectives, several employees of the juvenile court said they worried about their safety in the office after the incident and of Woodward's overall well-being and competency as a judge.

Some employees also said they were aware Woodward had guns in the office because they had seen him show his guns to other employees.

Capt. Paul Woods with the Whitfield County Sheriff's Office said cases are administratively closed when no crimes are committed.

In the state of Georgia, judges are exempt from the state law that says guns are prohibited in courthouses.

Judges are on a long list of personnel that are allowed to have guns in courthouses along with peace officers, military personnel, probation officers, clerks of the superior court and even district attorneys.

Gun license holders also are allowed to carry guns into courthouses in Georgia as long as they notify security and management and follow directions for "removing, securing, storing or temporarily surrendering such weapon."

Several attempts to reach Woodward last week were not successful.

Woodward has the been the juvenile court judge for Whitfield and Murray counties since March 2017. He took over for Judge Connie Blaylock after Blaylock retired.

Contact Patrick Filbin at pfilbin@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6476.


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