A former Emporia State football player who lost his leg in a gun accident two years ago is suing the gun manufacturer, the gun seller and the teammate who accidentally discharged the weapon.
Marquise Johnson was a defensive back for the Hornets when, on Aug. 18, 2018, he was shot in the leg as a passenger in a Dodge Challenger driven by Andre Lewis, also a football player. Lewis was attempting to show Johnson a 9mm Beretta semi-automatic pistol when it discharged, striking Johnson in the left leg. After two surgeries, Johnson eventually lost the leg below the knee.
The suit, filed Aug. 6 in Lyon County District Court, alleges that the handgun maker was negligent because the weapon lacked a safety feature known as a “magazine disconnect.” Lewis, according to the petition, did not realize the gun could fire when the magazine was removed, because a round was left in the chamber.
In addition to Beretta USA, the suit also names Bass Pro Shops Direct, the seller of the handgun, and Lewis, the owner. The suit is asking for at least $75,000 in damages.
“Gun manufacturers have long known that handguns in particular can be designed and made with magazine disconnect devices to prevent guns from accidentally going off in this type of situation,” said David R. Morantz of Shamberg, Johnson and Bergman in Kansas City, Missouri, who is representing Johnson.
The gun was bought at the Bass Pro Shops in Olathe, Kansas, according to the petition.
Neither Beretta USA nor Bass Pro Shops responded to a request for comment. Lewis, who is still a member of the ESU football team, said he would have to check with his lawyer before commenting. Lewis declined to name his counsel.
“Andre Lewis mistakenly believed that the Beretta APX 9mm handgun, the weapon could not fire with the magazine removed,” the petition said. “While Andre Lewis was holding the beretta APX 9mm handgun, the weapon discharged, firing the live round that remained hidden in the chamber… As a result of the lack of safety features and unsafe design of the Beretta APX 9mm handgun, a bullet entered and exited Marquise Johnson’s left thigh before entering and exiting his right thigh.”
Johnson still lives in Emporia, according to the suit.
The petition says injury could have been avoided if Lewis was properly educated on how to operate the handgun in his possession or Beretta or Bass Pro Shops included the safety features necessary in a handgun.
“The injury to Marquise Johnson was foreseeably caused by the negligence of Beretta and BPS Direct and the firearm’s defective design and defective warnings and instructions which rendered the firearm unreasonably dangerous,” the petition alleges.