One night in February 2019, a 31-year-old woman in a troubled marriage was rushed to the emergency room in Birmingham, Alabama, underground, with a gunshot wound to the right arm.
"He shot me," Megan Montgomery told doctors, according to an investigative report obtained byNews only. By "her," she was referring to her husband, local police officer Jason McIntosh.
Police confiscated her husband's firearm. Nine months later, the state's top law enforcement agency returned it, although pending cases of domestic violence and an effective protection order were pending. Just 16 days later, he turned his shotgun on himself when apprehended by a police officer on the porch of the house where the shootings took place.
Megan's loved ones are devastated by the loss of her dedicated daughter and sister, an animal marketing expert who loves to save animals. They were shocked to be told by NBC News recently that the state had returned to its abuser the weapon he had used to kill him.
X-rays show Megan Montgomery's upper arm injury since she was shot in February 2019 (right) and undergoing surgery (left).
"So the restraining order can stop him from 'touching, calling, texting, harassing, harassing,' but oh by the way, can you have a gun? That's funny," said Megan's mother, Susann Montgomery-Clark.
Even the shooter's lawyer was shocked when he returned his weapon. "In my opinion it was absurd, absurd and unreasonable to do so," said attorney Tommy Spina, who emphasized that he did not condone his client's actions. Spina said without a gun, "I don't think what happened that night would have happened that night."
Women with domestic violence who find guns are five times more likely to be shot and killed, according to a study sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Megan Montgomery and Jason McIntosh in 2019. About the Montgomery family
This murder is also on the rise. After a 12-year decline in cases of women being killed by firearms carried by their partners, the death toll has been rising since 2013, according to FBI data analyst James Alan Fox at Northeastern University.
In 2019, the most recent year of available data, 964 women were shot dead by their domestic partners compared to the 211 men and women who died that year from mass shootings. That is one woman who is killed by a close partner every nine hours.
But while federal law and many of the country's laws prohibit domestic abusers from owning a firearm when a domestic violence protection law is in place, few say they actually take guns or keep them away from the perpetrators once a protection order is issued. Alabama has such a law, but domestic abusers often keep their weapons.
Experts say the reason is a combination of respect for gun rights on the part of judges and other officials, the lack of a defined gun removal procedure, and a lack of legal awareness about how deadly accidents can be.
Allison Dearing is executive director of the One Place Metro Alabama Family Justice Center in Birmingham, which provides services to victims of domestic violence. Seven women, including Montgomery, were shot dead by their close associates in Jefferson County in 2019.
"We know they are predictable and can be avoided," he said, "but we still don't treat them that way."
Megan Montgomery does almost everything that experts say you should do to escape the abuser, and she is still dead.