NY Cops May Have Killed Bystander With One of 71 Stray Bullets

In another example of appalling marksmanship by members of law enforcement, it appears that a bystander who was killed during one of the 52 shooting events that occurred in New York City over the weekend was probably killed by a stray round fired by an NYPD officer. This, in and of itself, isn’t terribly surprising given the population density of the five boroughs. What is notable is that, as nytimes.com reports, eight officers firing 73 bullets at one shooter managed to hit him only twice…

The shooting on Monday erupted just after 9 p.m., when, the police said, Leroy Webster, 32, opened fire on Mr. Johnson, 29, in a dispute that escalated after an earlier confrontation the men had on Park Place, blocks away from the path of the West Indian Day Parade.

As Mr. Webster fired several shots, the police said, Mr. Johnson was struck in the neck and fell mortally wounded.

Several officers confronted Mr. Webster, who officials said ignored their orders and fired at them. Eight officers returned fire — in two distinct volleys — firing 73 bullets and striking Mr. Webster twice, in his chest and hip.

With 71 stray rounds careening through Crown Heights on a holiday evening, it’s a wonder only one innocent person was struck. It’s been determined the bullet that killed Denise Gay was not fired by the shooter’s gun. The NYPD has been less than definitive about what gun the bullet was fired from.

Asked if a bullet fired by a police officer could have been the fatal shot, Paul J. Browne, the Police Department’s chief spokesman, said it could have been. “Was it one of the officers’ Glocks? Possibly,” he said. “Was it from the gun witnesses said Mr. Johnson had, but has not been recovered? Possibly.”

The ballistics tests determined that the bullet that killed Ms. Gay, from a 9-millimeter gun, had markings consistent with those made by seven manufacturers’ guns, including Glock.

It was doubtful whether the source of the shot that killed Ms. Gay would definitively be determined, even by comparing the slug to those from the Glocks fired by two officers, the police said, because of the generic markings the lead slug picked up as it passed through the gun’s barrel. Also, the round retrieved from Ms. Gay’s body was deformed.

But somehow it was possible to eliminate the shooter’s gun as the source. Odds that the final ballistics report will be ‘inconclusive’: 80%.

As we’ve said so many times before, it’s not easy being a cop. Not at all. No one expects someone returning fire at an active shooter to be perfect. Not with contributing factors such as fading light, adrenaline, a possibly moving target, etc. But a hit rate of less than 3%? Is firearms proficiency even a criterion to be one of New York’s Finest?

This sounds like the cops’ philosophy, rather than making every shot count, is more along the lines of spray and pray. That may work when you’re out in the middle of nowhere. But a shower of lead in a densely populated city is a recipe for disaster.

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