RENO, Nev. — The Reno police sergeant who sold a gun to a mentally ill 19-year-old man has been demoted.
Laura Conklin is now a police officer, Deputy Chief Tom Robinson said Friday.
"I want to emphasize and make clear, though, that our internal investigation into her conduct has not yet concluded and is still ongoing," Robinson said in an email.
A Reno Gazette-Journal investigation learned that, while on duty, Conklin sold her personal Glock 34, magazines, a slide extender and night sights to the man, who has Asperger's syndrome, at a Starbucks parking lot at 4 a.m. July 2.
The Reno city attorney said there was no policy against selling a personal gun while on duty.
A judge had previously ruled that the man's mental illness made him incompetent to care for himself, and he granted the man's parents legal guardianship. That ruling made it illegal for the young man to have a gun.
His mother, Jill Schaller, has argued that the gun sale was dangerous and irresponsible because her son's mental illness causes him to suffer from severe depression that makes him suicidal.
Conkin's lawyer, Thomas Viloria, said she was promoted to sergeant on Aug. 10, 2012, and was awaiting final confirmation after a yearlong probation. But on Wednesday, she was told she was not confirmed, and her supervisor "refused to provide a reason," Viloria said.
"We would welcome a detailed explanation as to why she was not confirmed," he wrote in an email.
Schaller said her reaction to the news of the demotion was "very mixed."
"I feel the whole situation was just such a mess — just sad," she said. "I don't know what to say right now, but I might have more to say once they've finished their investigation and make a final decision."
The Reno Police Department has not commented on or identified a second officer who was with Conklin at the time of the gun sale. But Robinson said no other officers have been demoted recently.
"I can't say with any degree of certainty that anyone else was at the sale," Robinson said. "Nonetheless, there has been no other changes in classification involving any other sworn employee over the past week."
Besides the Reno Police Department's investigation, the Sparks Police Department is conducting a criminal investigation.
State and federal laws prohibit a person adjudicated with a mental illness from having a firearm. It's also illegal for someone to "knowingly" sell a gun to a prohibited person. Private-party sales do not require background checks.
Because of a glitch in the Washoe District Court's system for reporting adjudications of mental illnesses, the young man's name was not immediately sent to public safety officials to flag him as a prohibited person, an RGJ investigation found.
That has since been fixed, and he is now in the national database as prohibited from owning a gun, the court clerk confirmed.
Nevada law allows a gun seller to ask for a background check, but Conklin did not request one. According to the man's version of the incident, she only asked to see his driver's license to confirm that he was older than 18 and asked him if he had ever committed a crime.
Private-party background checks are rarely conducted. Julie Butler, administrator for the Nevada Department of Public Safety division that handles background checks, said requests by private sellers have only been made twice in the past five years: once in December 2008 and once in January 2010.