SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah teacher who was injured by fragments from a bullet and a porcelain toilet when her gun accidentally went off in a faculty bathroom at an elementary school has been charged with a misdemeanor and resigned from her job.
The charges came earlier this month after she changed her story about what happened in the Sept. 11 shooting. Detectives had confronted her about discrepancies, charging documents show.
Nobody other than the teacher was injured or saw the shooting, but it reignited a debate about whether teachers should be armed. Utah is among a few states that allow people with concealed-weapons permits to carry guns in public schools.
Michelle Montgomery, 39, was charged earlier this month with discharge of a firearm in a prohibited area within city limits, court records show. She is scheduled to be in court on Nov. 5 for a pretrial conference.
She has not entered a plea and the attorney court documents show is representing her could not be reached. She does not have a listed phone number. Montgomery was carrying her gun legally with a concealed-firearm permit when the gun went off.
She first told investigators that her gun accidentally went off when it was in her holster while she was in the bathroom stall, charging documents show. However, that story didn’t jibe with evidence gathered from the scene.
At a second interview, detectives confronted her about the inconsistencies, and she provided a new account. Montgomery said she had put the gun on top of the toilet paper dispenser. After she was done going to the bathroom, she grabbed the gun to put it back in her holster, but it slipped and went off, she told detectives according to the charging documents.
She was treated and released from the hospital that same day with lacerations to her leg, Granite School District spokesman Ben Horsley said. The bullet struck a toilet, causing it to explode, and fragments from the bullet and toilet struck her lower leg.
Montgomery was facing discipline for violating school policy but was not going to be fired, Horsley said. But on Thursday, Montgomery informed the district she would not be coming back to her position as a sixth-grade teacher at Westbrook Elementary School in the Salt Lake City suburb of Taylorsville.
She said she was taking another job closer to where she lives, Horsley said. Montgomery was a teacher at Westbrook for 14 years.
“We wish her well,” Horsley said.
Utah Parents Against Gun Violence said the events were exactly why they don’t want teachers armed. Group co-founder Miriam Walkingshaw said after the accident that the risk of having any guns near children is greater than any threat teachers hope to prevent.
Gun-rights advocates said teachers can act faster than law enforcement in the first few minutes of a school attack.
In Utah, teachers are not required to disclose that they are carrying a weapon, and administrators are prohibited from asking if they carry or barring them from bringing their weapons.
Educators have said they have no way of determining how many Utah teachers are armed. But gun-rights advocates estimated several years ago that 1 percent, or about 240 teachers in the state, are licensed to carry weapons.
The Granite School District requires teachers who carry guns at school to keep the weapons on their body at all times, even in bathroom stalls.
Gun instructors have been offering free training to Utah teachers for years, with an estimated 500 educators participating in the classes.