Gun Instructor’s Accidental Shooting Wasn’t His First

Certified firearms instructor Terry J. Dunlap Sr. accidentally shot someone in Fairfield County, Ohio earlier this month, but it wasn’t the first time, the Columbus Dispatch reported Tuesday.

Thirty-six years earlier, Dunlap, then a Pickerington police department auxiliary lieutenant, fired his .38-caliber handgun into the air to create a “scary effect” for his daughter at a “haunted hayride,” according to the Dispatch. The bullet ricocheted and hit 14-year-old Cathy Hessler in the leg, the newspaper said. 

Earlier this month, police said Dunlap’s .38-caliber handgun discharged while he was teaching a concealed carry firearm course, and the bullet ricocheted off a desk and into the arm of student Michael Piemonte, 26.

The woman who was wounded decades ago, now Cathy Schmelzer, 50, told the Dispatch she thought, “Oh no, he’s done it again!” when she heard the news of Dunlap’s latest shooting.

Dunlap, 73, is seeking re-election as a Violet Township trustee. He was once a Pickerington police department captain and the community’s safety-service director, according to the Dispatch. 

Both Schmelzer and Piemonte had the bullets removed at local hospitals. 

“Up until he shot me accidentally, it was very informative, very well laid out,” Piemonte told the Dispatch of the firearm class taught by Dunlap. “I learned a lot. Then again, I was accidentally shot.”


Zoë Schlanger is Frontpage Editor at TPM. Zoë was a TPM intern in 2011, and prior to returning here she was editor in chief of NYU Local, the alternative independent student news site at NYU. Zoë has interned at places like the Nation, InsideClimate News, The Rachel Maddow Show and Gothamist. She can be reached at