A rookie New York City police officer was patrolling a housing project with his partner (also a rookie) when his sidearm was discharged. A single round from his service pistol hit and killed a 28-year-old man who, police say, was not involved in any criminal activity.
The man was on the stairwell and the officer was above him. From my understanding–based on the limited amount of information I or any member of the public currently knows about the case–there wasn’t any reason for the officer to have his weapon drawn or out of the holster.
The cop in me hopes this officer wasn’t just “curious” or “bored”. Drawing your weapon just because it’s “cool”, you want to look at it, caress it or show a friend or any civilian that you’re “pack’n”, is more than just a rookie mistake. It’s a dereliction of duty and just plain stupid.
It’s impossible for me (or any stranger) to know the details of the case other than what the media has reported, which, as you may know, I usually don’t trust much of the time anyway. It’s not that I think these “good and decent” journalists are willfully lying to me (most of the time) it’s just that I know from my many years of experience in life and law enforcement that reporters can’t know everything when it comes to incidents like these because of the investigation protocols necessarily in place across the nation. These measures dictate the access the general public has to sensitive details about lethal incidents and for good reason.
Regardless, it’s obvious to me the media is capitalizing on the fact that the officer was white and the unarmed man he shot was black and I sure wish the media would stop making these police interactions out to be some kind of race war. Because it isn’t.
It doesn’t change the fact that this is a horrible tragedy for all parties involved.
Ever since I began writing for Guns.com back in 2011, I have endeavored to spell out the distinction between accidental and negligent discharges in all of my published work. This is because I believe there is a huge difference between the two and that difference needs to be made crystal clear for the sake of accurate gun safety education. In fact, if you follow me, I often deem “ADs” to be NDs because, frankly, most of them are negligent either passively or actively. In turn, I’ve recently preferred the term “accidental negligent discharge” because I find it to be a more accurate description.
While I can’t know for sure what happened with this case, I am sure that the criminal court system will ensure a fair trial. But, based on what happened, I am also sure that this incident is headed for civil litigation as well.
An attorney representing the defendant’s wife or girlfriend (I don’t know if they solemnized their vows the traditional way by marriage) has already filed a suit against the officer, the police department and the city for $50 million in damages. I’m betting they’ll be getting a good chunk of that figure, if not the whole thing (minus attorney fees, of course). Sadly, even should a nice sum of cash come in the future, I know that no amount of cash can bring back someone from the dead.
I can’t stress it enough: keep your finger straight and off the trigger. Keep your finger in that position—it’s called the index position—until you’ve made the conscious decision to shoot.
And, for Pete’s sake, keep your gun holstered unless you really feel you need to use it.
The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of Guns.com.
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