The family of a 41-year-old South Jersey woman who fatally shot herself one year ago is now suing her former live-in cop boyfriend for having an unsecured, loaded gun that she used to commit suicide. Kevin and Carol McDowell, parents of Kelly Ann McDowell, of Galloway, NJ, filed their lawsuit against her ex-boyfriend, Ventnor Police Sgt. Frank O’Neill one year after their daughter killed herself, on April 17, 2017.
“This was not just an incidental mistake, it was a monumental failure on his part that caused Kelly’s death and also jeopardized the safety of their children,” said the McDowells’ attorney, Paul D’Amato, in a statement.
D’Amato also blames O’Neill, who could not be reached for comment, for not recognizing McDowell’s suicidal state.
“Sgt. O’Neill was specifically trained to not only properly secure his gun when it was not in use – including in the home he shared with Kelly and their five children – but he also was trained to recognize mental health conditions such as those from which Kelly suffered,” D’Amato said.
The lawsuit claims that O’Neill left his Glock loaded and unsecured Glock in the house he shared with McDowell and their five children, on a day that McDowell “was shocked to learn from Sgt. O’Neill on the morning of the incident that he was taking a trip to Florida, leaving her responsible for the five children in the household,” said a statement from The D’Amato Law Firm. “The working, single mother had confided to family members the relationship was not working out and that she was planning on leaving.”
McDowell turned O’Neill’s Glock on herself later that day, while two of the children were in the house. Her son, Ryan Strazzeri, on whose behalf a separate lawsuit against O’Neill was filed, discovered his mother’s body.
“He suffered the horrifying, life-altering experience of coming upon his mother just moments after she fatally shot herself in the head,” said Strazzeri’s lawyer Oliver Barry in a statement. “Sgt. O’Neill’s conduct – that included leaving his loaded gun in plain sight and dangerously close to a deeply depressed individual – also violated Ryan’s constitutional and civil rights. … State law requires that no handgun shall be delivered to any person unless it is accompanied by a trigger lock or other safe storage device.”
No attorney for O’Neill was yet listed and he could not be reached for comment.