Store Fined by OSHA after Gun 'Prank' Goes Wrong

20 Jul, 2022 Liz Carey

                               

Moncks Corner, SC (WorkersCompensation.com) – OSHA levied $3,000 worth of fines to a South Carolina gun store after a “prank” led to one employee ending up dead.   

According to records from the South Carolina Office of Occupational Safety and Health, Coastal Firearms in Berkley County, S.C. was cited for two safety and health violations stemming from a Nov. 2 incident.   

OSHA’s records show that store owner Jon Whitley told Berkley County Sheriff deputies he bought a replica Glock BB gun and placed it amongst the other firearms in his store, “with the intent of pranking his friend, 36-year-old Stefan Mrgan (CQ), a store employee.   

Whitley said he intended to pick up the replica weapon and pretend to fire it at Mrgan. Instead, he picked up a real firearm, aimed it at Mrgan and fired. The shot entered Mrgan’s lower face. Authorities arrived at the shop shortly be 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 2 and found Mrgan, a former Army Special Forces member, dead in the store’ lobby.   

Whitley, a “firearms expert,” told investigating officers that he mistook his handgun for the replica BB gun.   

Whitley surrendered to Berkeley County deputies in the early hours of Nov. 29 and was charged with involuntary manslaughter, Capt. Michael Crumley told the Post and Courier last year.   

The investigation said that while Whitley’s actions were not intentional, they were described as “reckless” and a “departure from common firearm safety practices.” Based on video footage from Whitley’s store, investigators were able to determine what happened.  

If convicted, Whitley would be a convicted felon, making him federally prohibited from owning a gun.   

SC OSHA issued the fine on April 28, documents said. Investigators visited Coastal Firearms in early December for an inspection.   

The inspection found two violations. The first citation, labeled “serious,” found that the business “failed to furnish a place of employment which is free of recognized hazards which may cause death or serious physical harm.” OSHA said the employer should have known that pointing a firearm in the direction of an employee would expose them to a potential hazard. The agency said the violation can be remedied through training and enforcement of basic firearm safety.  

The second citation was for failure to report a fatality as the result of a work-related incident within eight hours. Documents indicate that as of Dec. 3, nearly a month after the incident, the business had still not reported Mrgan’s death to the agency.   

Both citations carry a $1,500 penalty. South Carolina law requires violations be poster for employees and remain posted until they are corrected or for three days, whichever is longer.   

Although this year has seen several incidents of employees shooting their boss, bosses shooting their employees has been rare.   

In late June, a supervisor in Pontiac, Mich. allegedly killed an employee after an argument at work.   

According to the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office, Daniel Leroy Brotemarkle, 25, got into an argument with his supervisor at work on June 27 and was sent home. Brotemarkle then drove to his house in one of the company trucks.   

Later that day, Brotemarkle’s supervisor and several other employees went to Brotemarkle’s home to retrieve the truck.   

According to authorities, Brotemarkle and his supervisor got into another argument which escalated until the supervisor shot Brotemarkle several times.   

Deputies were called to the scene and found Brotemarkle unresponsive in the road with several gunshot wounds and multiple shell casings nearby. Although Brotemarkle was rushed to the hospital, he died of his injuries.   

The supervisor was arrested shortly after at his home.  

"The employer should feel somewhat accountable, responsible and not sleeping well as of last night. And the person that shot him, you could’ve made a different choice," said Tricia Auten, Brotemarkle’s aunt. “"It’s very unfortunate that whatever led to the result, that couldn't be handled differently … very differently with a very different outcome." 

 


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    About The Author

    • Liz Carey

      Liz Carey has worked as a writer, reporter and editor for nearly 25 years. First, as an investigative reporter for Gannett and later as the Vice President of a local Chamber of Commerce, Carey has covered everything from local government to the statehouse to the aerospace industry. Her work as a reporter, as well as her work in the community, have led her to become an advocate for the working poor, as well as the small business owner.

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