It’s one thing to create a negligent discharge (a.k.a. a firearms “accident”). It’s another to fail to take responsibility for it. When a police officer is involved, accountability doesn’t get a look in. Well duh. The police are unionized. Their bosses are politicized. The lawyers are energized. This CYA trifecta invariably leads to . . . nothing much. The Police Department prevaricates from the git-go, dragging out their investigation until the appropriate people are paid off or wrist-slapped, the public eventually simmers down and the media loses interest. The media. Huh. How many of these IGOTD reports feature news stories where a gun “goes off”? Plenty. Anyway, here’s another affront to anyone who believes that public servants should perform their duties with transparency . . .

A St. Joseph, Missouri, police officer who was shot and killed by a fellow officer during a training exercise had requested that he be shot with a type of plastic training ammunition, and was inadvertantly shot with a live round instead, the St. Joesph Police Department said on Wednesday.

fox4kc.com‘s lede clearly suggests that the officer who was shot is responsible for his own death. In truth, he was and he wasn’t. Let me put it this way.

St. Joe Police Officer Jason Strong shot and killed fellow Officer Dan De Kraai when an unnamed police trainer failed to stop Strong from using a loaded weapon during a training exercise.

There, fixed it for you.

According to a report in the St. Joseph News-Press, Officer Dan De Kraai, 35, was shot and killed during the training session at an empty St. Joseph school building on September 15th. According to the department, Officer Jason Strong was asked by De Kraai to shoot him in the back with “Simunition” so that he would know what being struck by it was like prior to the start of the training session.

Again, this story is playing up the fact that Officer Strong asked to be shot. This is not in and of itself an irresponsible act. In fact, it’s a natural response to alleviate fears or simply satisfy curiosity. I have no doubt whatsoever that Strong was not the first person to ask to be shot with simumitions. And the first person who failed here is, again, the training officer.

The department says that Simunition, a non-lethal plastic projectile, requires a specially-modified gun, but De Kraai and Strong were reissued their regular weapons when they briefly left the training session to get a drink from a nearby convenience store. When they returned, authorities say that Strong, apparently not realizing that he was still carrying a weapon with live ammuntion, fired the deadly shot into De Kraai’s back.

In other words, the trainer did not create a sterile, controlled environment for the training, nor did he maintain it. Even though officers had left the training environment, he failed to check their weapons when they returned, prior to the exercise. Either that, or the officers decided to “fool around” before the start of training proper. Which would still be the trainer’s responsibility.

“Clearly, this accident should not have happened,” said the department in a release. “The application of safety rules was not sufficient to prevent an otherwise very preventable tragedy.”

Clearly, the officer in charge of the safety rules (which are what exactly?) failed to apply them properly. But once again, a chain of failures led to the tragedy. Both Officers should have checked their weapons prior to the shooting. And their brother officers should have been paying attention as well.

Strong is on administrative leave pending the results of the investigation. The department says that the detective’s report on the case should be handed over to the Buchanan County Prosecuting Attorney’s office, who will decide if any charges will be filed, within the week.

Filed against Strong? While he bears some responsibility for the shooting, he should not be the only person held accountable. When it comes to firearms, a responsible gun owner is responsible for his or her own gun AND any gun for which he or she is responsible. There is no escaping that fact. Unless there is.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *