Man faces reckless endangerment count; service weapon used in her suicide
By Danielle E. Gaines News-Post Staff | Posted 2 weeks ago
A former Frederick County courthouse deputy will return to the United States to face reckless endangerment and gun charges related to his wife’s death, a special prosecutor said Thursday.
George Elias Salibi, 50, of Briargrove Court in Frederick, was indicted Nov. 1 and a criminal warrant was issued, but the charges were sealed until Wednesday, Washington County Deputy State’s Attorney Steven Kessell said.
Kessell, who is handling the case to avoid conflicts in Frederick County, made a motion Wednesday to convert the arrest warrant to a summons to appear in court.
An arraignment scheduled for Feb. 28 — almost exactly a year after Salibi’s wife died of gunshot wounds from his Frederick County Sheriff’s Office-issued weapon — was canceled Thursday after Salibi hired a lawyer.
Salibi has been overseas in Lebanon and is expected to return to the U.S. soon, Kessell said.
Judge G. Edward Dwyer Jr. ordered Salibi to surrender his passport to the sheriff’s office and not attempt to leave the United States, according to online court records.
He is charged with reckless endangerment and two counts of leaving a loaded firearm in a location where a minor child could gain access.
The charges are misdemeanors.
First responders went to the Salibis’ home just before 3:30 a.m. Feb. 27 for the report of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to scanner communications obtained by The Frederick News-Post.
Salibi’s wife, Grace Breidy Salibi, 44, who later died at Frederick Memorial Hospital, fatally shot herself with his agency-issued firearm, according to the sheriff’s office. An autopsy report showed the cause of death was two gunshot wounds to the chest.
George Salibi was employed at the time as a non-sworn civilian courthouse deputy who had been hired by the sheriff’s office less than two years earlier, Sheriff Chuck Jenkins said in April.
After the shooting, Jenkins said his office would conduct a criminal death investigation and an internal investigation. Sheriff’s office spokeswoman Sgt. Jennifer Bailey said Thursday that Salibi resigned April 8.
“We opened the investigation internally, but once he resigned, that ended,” Jenkins said Thursday.
Bailey said the office would not be able to provide further comment because personnel issues are confidential.
“The criminal case speaks for itself,” Jenkins said.
The criminal investigation of Salibi was forwarded in May by Frederick County State’s Attorney Charlie Smith to the Washington County State’s Attorney’s Office for further review.
The sheriff’s office did not notify the Frederick County State’s Attorney’s Office about the shooting as required by state law, according to the state’s attorney’s response to a Public Information Act request from The Frederick News-Post.
In response to the information request, Smith said his office became aware of the death a number of hours after the shooting through “collateral sources.”
The law does not outline any penalties for failure to make a notification.
Jenkins said in April he didn’t know why the notification wasn’t initially made.
“I can assure you that won’t happen again in the future,” he said.
An investigator from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner was notified shortly after deputies were called and went to the house.
Kessell explained Thursday the basis for the charges against Salibi.
“When the deputies arrived at the house, they recovered two handguns. The two guns were out where they could have been accessed by a minor child,” Kessell said.
The Salibis’ young son lived with them in the home.
Each of the loaded firearm charges carries a maximum penalty of a $1,000 fine.
The reckless endangerment charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
In the week before her death, authorities were called to the home because Grace Salibi was believed to be suicidal, Kessell said. On the day of that call, George Salibi left work to go home, he said.
A charge of reckless endangerment is appropriate because Salibi left a loaded gun open in the home knowing his wife’s emotional state, Kessell said.
The Maryland Police and Correctional Training Commissions, the state organization that certifies police officers and police agencies, trains officers to keep their service weapons unloaded while at home, with the ammunition stored separately. Secondary security devices, such as a safe or lock, are recommended.
Salibi did not violate state regulations by carrying an agency-issued firearm without being a sworn officer if he had a valid gun permit from Maryland State Police, said Thomas C. Smith, director of policy and process review at the Maryland Police and Correctional Training Commissions.
Maryland State Police confirmed earlier this year that Salibi had permits to carry weapons.
An autopsy report at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore showed that Grace Salibi died of two gunshot wounds, one of which pierced part of her lung.
An attorney advocating on behalf of her family welcomed the unsealed indictment Thursday.
“The family is very grateful to Steve Kessell for this very thorough investigation,” attorney Andrew V. Jezic said. However, “the family still believes (George Salibi’s) involvement was greater than the charges in the indictment.”
Richard Bricken, who is representing Salibi in the criminal matter, said his client “fully expects to come back and face the charges.”
Bricken said he could not comment on particulars before receiving all information that will be released as part of the case.
Salibi will maintain his innocence and plead not guilty to the charges, Bricken said.
“His loss is immeasurable in losing his wife, whom he loved deeply,” he said.