Tuesday, January 31, 2017


“A Stratford police officer has been suspended without pay for leaving a loaded and unsecured .357 revolver in reach of his 8-year-old daughter, who was fatally shot New Year’s Eve at the family’s home, authorities said Friday.

Kenneth Righter, 46, has been charged with endangering the welfare of a child and a disorderly-persons offense called “storage of firearms if minors may have access.” The gun, a personal weapon of Righter’s, was left on a shelf and was accessible to three children, including Sailor Lane Righter, who died, and her brothers, 14 and 17, authorities said.


“The Camden County [NJ] Prosecutor’s Office, which is leading the investigation, did not say whether Sailor or another family member fired the gun, but has said that only family members were home at the time. Kenneth Righter, who is paid $87,000 a year as a Stratford officer, was not home at the time of the shooting.

Righter's attorney, Dennis Wixted, said Friday the charges have added to the family's stress and sadness over Sailor's loss.

"The entire Righter family is devastated," Wixted said. He declined to comment on details of the case.

A 911 call from the Righter family's house on Union Avenue came around 1:50 p.m. on New Year's Eve.

"We need help now," one of Sailor's siblings told a dispatcher, according to a recording of the call provided by county officials. The sibling did not give the dispatcher his name.

"My mom just went upstairs and found her, and she told me to call 911," he said. "She's not breathing."

He then told the dispatcher the family was headed to the hospital.

Sailor was pronounced dead at Kennedy University Hospital in Stratford at 2:15 p.m., authorities said. Her mother brought her there.

Kenneth Righter became a Stratford police officer in 2004, according to the state Attorney General's Office. He passed firearms training several times in recent years, including last year, when he scored 100 percent with his personal revolver, according to qualification forms obtained through a public records request. That is the same weapon that authorities said killed Sailor.

Stratford's police department has guidelines on keeping a weapon at home.”

“Each full-time member of this police department shall be issued a secure gun-locking device, which without exception shall be utilized each day,” the guidelines state, adding, “Officers are encouraged to purchase a safe to further safeguard weapons.”

The department has 16 officers, including supervisors, according to its website.

Police Chief Ronald Morello said in a statement Friday that it is general policy to suspend any employees charged with an indictable crime. He said he could not comment on the investigation by the Prosecutor's Office. "
This is both tragic and inexcusable.


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