Storing Weapons in Abandoned Vehicle Leads to Removal of Army Employee

An Army officer was fired after storing weapons in an abandoned vehicle. He charged that the penalty was too severe and went to federal court to prove his case.

The appeals court has declined to overturn the firing of an Army civilian police officer at the Garrison in Natick, Massachusetts. (Flood v. Department of the Army, C.A.F.C. No. 2010-3023 (nonprecedential), 8/5/10)

The charges were insubordination and violation of the Army’s Physical Security Policy as it relates to having firearms at work.

The violation of policy charge involved improper storage of personal firearms at the garrison. Army regulations specifically require that personal arms and ammo be stored in the unit arms room or other authorized location.

Apparently, Flood stored weapons and ammunition in an abandoned vehicle parked at the garrison in violation of Army regulations and state law. Flood does not dispute the facts.

He argued that he had stored his personal weapons and ammo in the Garrison arms room, but had moved them to the abandoned vehicle on orders of one Lt. McCrillis. In testimony, McCrillis denied knowing Flood’s weapons had been stored in the arms room and denied ordering Flood to move them, much less to the abandoned vehicle. Flood further argued that his storage of the weapons in the abandoned vehicle did not violate Massachusetts law because they were in a locked gun case. However, the agency investigator, officer Santoro, testified that he found the guns and they were not in a locked case. (Opinion, pp. 2-3) 

Unfortunately for Mr. Flood, the administrative judge hearing his appeal found McCrillis’ and Santoros’ testimonies to be more credible than Flood’s, and the charge was sustained by the Merit Systems Protection Board. (Opinion, pp. 2-3)

The court deferred to the MSPB witness credibility finding and consequently found the charge sustained.

As for the insubordination charge, the court pointed out that it was enough that the first charge was sustained since the Army deciding official made very clear that Charge 1 alone supported Flood’s removal. (p. 4)

In response to Flood’s argument that removal was too harsh, the court had this to say: “…[T]he charges of improper storage of deadly weapons and ammunition in an abandoned vehicle are very serious due to the potential consequences of Mr. Flood’s actions. The penalty of removal does not constitute an abuse of discretion.” (p. 5)

Case closed.

About the Author

Susan McGuire Smith spent most of her federal legal career with NASA, serving as Chief Counsel at Marshall Space Flight Center for 14 years. Her expertise is in government contracts, ethics, and personnel law.