When the pastor of a Modesto church went to a firearms safety class, he was reportedly hoping to protect himself "from potential dangers." But the dangerous situation found him, when the instructor of the course appeared to confuse his demonstration gun with his real one, and shot the clergyman in the classroom.
Tom Smith is the "Family Life Pastor" at The House Modesto, a seemingly massive Christian church in the Central Valley city. He was a student at a firearms-related self-defense class at Modesto's Personal Protection Institute on December 5 when, Fox 40 reported Tuesday night, the instructor of the course shot him during "a role-playing scenario."
According to the Modesto Bee, instructor Phillip Rushing had used "a training gun, a rubber fake with no firing mechanism," during the class, but "as the class was ending...he removed that prop from his holster and replaced it with his real handgun."
That's when a student asked Rushing how to manage an attacker armed with a knife. Smith volunteered to play the attacker role and “During the scenario, the instructor drew the firearm and it accidentally discharged,” Modesto Police Department spokesperson Heather Graves says.
Smith was struck on his right side just above his hip, Fox 40 reports, and has been in the hospital ever since.
Graves says that investigators are still trying to determine if Rushing "forgot he replaced the training gun or whether he knew he was drawing the real gun" when he shot Smith.
Though the Personal Protection Institute's website has been taken down, the Bee reports that Rushing's bio read “He has added to his studies law enforcement and firearms training to enhance his knowledge base. ... He has developed his own system of Combative Encounters. Combative Encounters encompasses practical self-defense tactics with firearms and knife fighting as part of the regular training,”
Before it was taken down, a message on the website said "Classes have been cancelled until further notice," Fox 40 reports.
Modesto Police are "determining the next steps" in the shooting investigation, Graves says, and have yet to decide if they will turn the case to the District Attorney’s Office for prosecution.
According to a Facebook post from The House, Smith "is still in much pain but pulling through the physical therapy." The House's head pastor tells Fox 40 that Smith is "recuperating well, in a sense, as far as his condition improving every day" and that his recovery is expected to "take months."