Police respond to the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.EXPAND
Police respond to the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
Ian Witlen

Parkland Teacher Who Backed Armed School Staff Arrested After Leaving Glock in Public Bathroom

After the mass shooting that left 17 dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, most Florida teachers were horrified by the push from President Donald Trump and GOP legislators to arm teachers. But one vocal Parkland faculty member — science teacher Sean Simpson — said he would be open to packing heat in the classroom.

"I know there are some of us that are willing to take the training if it was offered and probably be another line of defense," he told MSNBC. "But, again, that is a complicated subject, and I'm not sure if it's the answer."

Well, it's probably not the answer for Simpson. This past Sunday, Broward Sheriff's deputies arrested the 43-year-old teacher after he forgot his Glock 9mm in a public bathroom stall, where a drunk homeless man promptly picked it up and fired it.

Simpson faces a misdemeanor charge of failing to safely secure a firearm in the incident, which was first reported by Local 10. The homeless man, 69-year-old Joseph Spataro, was also arrested and charged with trespassing and firing a weapon while intoxicated.

In the immediate aftermath of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, Trump called for raising the age to buy assault rifles from 18 to 21, boasting that unlike some legislators, he was not afraid of the NRA. But a few days later, he abandoned that idea and instead focused on the very NRA-friendly idea of arming teachers.

"Armed educators (and trusted people who work within a school) love our students and will protect them," the president tweeted. "Very smart people. Must be firearms adept & have annual training. Should get yearly bonus. Shootings will not happen again - a big & very inexpensive deterrent. Up to States."

Florida legislators later set aside $65 million to train and arm noninstructional school staff. But Broward school board members voted Tuesday not to participate

In fairness to Simpson, who supervised student activist Emma Gonzalez on a science project and appeared in a documentary made by David Hogg, the teacher has been supportive of the students' #NeverAgain movement. He attended the March for Our Lives in D.C. and told MSNBC that gun reform might be more effective than arming teachers.

"I think it's easier to get these types of weapons out of the hands of people that aren't meant to do anything but kill," he said.

The incident that led to his arrest happened around noon Sunday at the Deerfield Beach Pier. Simpson, who has a concealed-carry permit, told deputies he was carrying his gun when he went to use the restroom. He removed the weapon and set it on a handrail in the stall.

Five minutes after leaving the bathroom, Simpson realized he'd forgotten the gun. He heard a single shot as he walked back to retrieve it and saw Spataro holding the weapon when he walked into the bathroom. He snatched it out of the man's hands.

Spataro told deputies he fired the gun because he wanted to see if it was loaded. No one was injured, though deputies wrote in the arrest report that things could have gone differently.

"There was a reasonable likelihood that the firearm could have ended up in the hands of a child, or the discharge of the firearm could have wounded another person or child," they wrote.

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