Washington County jail doctor charged with leaving loaded gun in bathroom of Ellsworth L.L Bean

Posted Dec. 26, 2012, at 2:34 p.m.
Last modified Dec. 26, 2012, at 7:22 p.m.

ELLSWORTH, Maine — A 72-year-old doctor from Winter Harbor has been charged with reckless conduct after allegedly leaving a loaded semiautomatic pistol in the restroom of the L.L. Bean Outlet on High Street in Ellsworth on Wednesday.

Benjamin Newman told police he took the gun — a 9 mm Walther police pistol — out of its holster while he used the bathroom at the outdoor apparel retailer and simply forgot the weapon when he left, according to Ellsworth police Lt. Harold Page.

Newman is the Washington County Jail doctor, hired in June of this year, according to minutes posted online from Washington County commissioners’ meetings. He is a retired Navy captain who served as the senior medical officer on the USS Bataan, which deployed to Afghanistan after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, according to Washington County Sheriff Donnie Smith’s monthly report from June.

A store employee called police around 11:20 a.m. Wednesday to report the gun had been found, said Ellsworth Police Chief John DeLeo. The gun was loaded, with one round in the chamber, DeLeo said.

DeLeo said a potentially dangerous situation was averted when the employee turned the gun over to police. A loaded gun abandoned in a place where anyone was able to grab it could have been disastrous. That’s why Newman was charged with reckless conduct, the chief said.

“When you leave it in the restroom available to the public, I mean, a child could have gone in there and found it,” DeLeo said.

Page said Newman originally called L.L. Bean to retrieve his firearm, but the store told him it already had been turned over to police.

“He called here and said he’d like to come get it, and we said we wanted to talk to him and asked him to come in,” Page said. After questioning Newman, police issued him a summons for reckless conduct, a Class D misdemeanor punishable by up to 364 days in jail and and a $2,000 fine.

Efforts to contact Newman after business hours were unsuccessful on Wednesday.

Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.

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