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Gun in carry-on accidentally fired

By Marnie Hunter, CNN
updated 10:22 AM EST, Tue December 13, 2011
A police officer accidentally fired a gun found in a passenger's bag Sunday at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
A police officer accidentally fired a gun found in a passenger's bag Sunday at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Gun found in carry-on accidentally discharged, police report says
  • The gun was discovered by TSA officers at Atlanta airport
  • Owner told police he didn't realize gun was still in bag

(CNN) -- Some travelers sleepily making their way through airport security in Atlanta Sunday morning got a startling wake-up. A gun detected in a carry-on at a checkpoint at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport was accidentally fired by an investigating officer around 9 a.m. Sunday, according to a police report.

Transportation Security Administration screeners reported the gun to Atlanta police officer N.J. Phillips, the officer wrote in an Atlanta Police Department report. The gun's owner was telling Phillips how to clear the loaded .22 Magnum revolver when it was accidentally discharged, Phillips reported. "The weapon was pointed down towards the screening table."

"I was grazed by a pellet fragment on the left side of my face," Phillips wrote. "However, there were no visible injuries."

The gun was loaded with "snake shot," ammunition usually used to hunt small animals.

The gun's owner, Richard Popkin of Kathleen, Georgia, told Phillips he didn't realize the gun was still in his bag, according to the police report. Popkin said he originally intended to pack the bag in his checked luggage, but he removed it because he was concerned about the weight limit for his checked bag, according to the report.

Popkin was arrested and charged with carrying a deadly weapon at a public gathering, according to the police report.

The TSA followed standard procedure in alerting local law enforcement, the agency said in a statement. "TSA also has opened an investigation and has the authority to level a civil penalty when a firearm is brought to a checkpoint."

TSA officers have discovered more than 1,100 firearms at checkpoints this year, the agency said. Firearms are not allowed in carry-on bags or at security checkpoints.

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