Baltimore Cop “Accidental Shooting” Spurs Rethink on Terminology

Ever since TTAG hit the net, we’ve been arguing that there’s no such thing as an accidental discharge. It’s a “negligent discharge” or ND. In other words, guns “going off” when they’re not supposed to is a preventable occurrence. If all gun owners followed the four safety rules, a true firearms “accident” would require a strange and statistically improbable set of circumstances to qualify. It seems that the rest of the media is beginning to “get it” in terms of terminology. See: above. And make the jump for another example of a blogger who’s seen the light thanks to the same story . . .

The term “accidental discharge” in this instance is a strawman. It is highly unlikely that the officer’s weapon malfunctioned and shot off a round with no trigger pull; nor did the officer believe he was in a training environment shooting blanks and accidently fired a live round.

This officer had his weapon out, with the intent to use it. If he didn’t intend to kill the boy on the balcony, then he shouldn’t have pulled the trigger.

Using the term “accidental” defers the liability away from the officer. The appropriate term in this instance, if this story isn’t entirely fabricated, is negligent discharge. At the very least, the injuries sustained by this boy were negligently inflicted upon him by this officer.

Had a common citizen done this exact same thing, they would be sitting in a jail cell right now.

It is quite unfortunate that most people will accept this as some tragic accident, which could have been avoided had these kids simply chosen to play elsewhere. They will miss the point entirely, of a weapon being drawn by an overzealous and apparently trigger-happy officer.

TTAG welcomes freethoughtproject.com blogger Matt Agorist to the fold. We look forward to the day when the sycophants in the mainstream media get the message that guns are dangerous only when they’re in the hands of dangerous people. Hey, I can dream can’t I?

comments

  1. avatar Hannibal says:

    Guns don’t go off by themselves all that often. When a gun is in someone’s hand, I think it’s pretty reasonable to assume the trigger was pulled

    Aside: “Accidental discharge” is not a “strawman.” A strawman would be if the blogger claimed (incorrectly!) the police department called it an accidental discharge so as to argue against their imaginary position.

    1. avatar Jake Tallman says:

      Unless it’s a gun from Remington….

    2. avatar Chris Mallory says:

      I have seen it happen twice with one pistol, a Jennings 22. Releasing the slide to load a round would cause it to fire. After the second time, the slide was thrown one direction and the frame another.

      1. avatar Jim Barrett says:

        Sure. You can always find the exception with obscure older guns. I have an older S&W 10-6 revolver that was manufactured before there was a transfer bar. Drop that sucker hammer first and you risk an unintended discharge. Same goes for my Colt SAA, which is why its recommended to carry it with an empty cylinder under the hammer.

        However, no modern weapon should be capable of firing without actuation of the trigger. Assuming that police are equipped with modern handguns, the gun will only fire when the trigger is puller. Whether said officer intended to pull the trigger is immaterial. This is why every competent training authority teaches shooters to keep the finger along the frame above the trigger and only place a finger on the trigger when you are ready to fire.

        1. avatar Chris Mallory says:

          The Jennings 22 wasn’t obscure or older. It was a mass produced $100 pistol.

  2. avatar Chip Bennett says:

    Had a common citizen done this exact same thing, they would be sitting in a jail cell right now.

    It is quite unfortunate that most people will accept this as some tragic accident, which could have been avoided had these kids simply chosen to play elsewhere. They will miss the point entirely, of a weapon being drawn by an overzealous and apparently trigger-happy officer.

    This is probably one of my biggest concerns at the moment: police officers not being held to the same standard regarding the justification for use of deadly force, including the justification for threatening the use of deadly force by unholstering a firearm and pointing it at someone.

    All too often, it seems that police officers are allowed to draw their firearms on someone, merely because they are police officers. A police officer, being a civilian with a badge, unholstering a firearm should require exactly the same use-of-deadly-force justification of a non-badged civilian doing the same. The only exception should be when the police officer is exercising arrest authority – in which case, the use of deadly force in that circumstance should still comply with relevant statutes.

    1. avatar Michael C says:

      I’ll take you one step further. All police officers should be held to the same rules and requirements as non-cops with regard to firea ownership, carry, and use. If we required cops to abide by the rules we have to most restrictions would be removed overnight.

      1. avatar Jordan says:

        I actually think they should be held to a higher standard. IF they want to be perceived as the professionals they want to be perceived as, they CANNOT be allowed to have lax standards. Leniency can be given to those that do not know any better. Those that do know better have no excuse especially if that is their job.

        As an aircraft pilot, if I crash a dirt bike and it was my fault, I can plead for leniency if I was not trained. However, I will be crucified if I crash a plane if it is my fault because I should have known better.

        1. avatar Jake Tallman says:

          I completely agree. Somebody who has so much authority over the people should be held to an even higher standard than an average Joe. When they’re held to a lower standard, conflict will arise….

        2. avatar Jim Barrett says:

          Won’t happen as long as there are police unions and municipalities willing to grant police effectively full immunity in exchange for not having to raise salaries or pensions.

      2. avatar Jus Bill says:

        Notice please that the kid was shot by an “off-duty policeman working as a security guard” – hence, a “Joe Blow” citizen who probably did NOT receive the mandatory Armed Security Guard Training required in Maryland, and who has the Police Union, the entire Baltimore City Government and the Baltimore Sun and WaPo behind him pushing his side of the story. Until the video hits YouTube.

        Kid’s gonna be rich. Again. It’s almost a career choice for folks in the Bmore hood.

    2. avatar J- says:

      As soon as I heard “under construction” I knew something bad was going to happen. I remember reading a story a few years ago about a police shooting that involved a homeowner and a power drill. The homeowner was doing some maintenance, a cop drove by, saw a man with what looked like a gun going around the back of a house, got out and shot the homeowner.

      1. avatar LarryinTX says:

        And the cop is most likely still a cop.

        1. avatar Jeff Hunt says:

          And the homeowner is a corpse.

  3. avatar KC in norcal says:

    Or the one i hear pop up every once in a while “the gun misfired” and somebody gets shot. I dont think that means what you think it dose.

  4. avatar Mike says:

    I’m genuinely surprised that he managed to hit the kid with one shot.

    1. avatar Jus Bill says:

      He missed the dog.

      1. avatar lionsfan54 says:

        hahahaha

    2. avatar Jim Barrett says:

      Well, technically, new shooters are taught to slowly pull the trigger and if they do it right, they should be surprised when the shot breaks. This is supposed to prevent any reflexive action immediately prior to the shot.

      I’d say Barney Fife was likely very surprised when the shot broke and as a result, he made a shot he couldn’t have otherwise hoped to make.

  5. avatar Scrubula says:

    Had a common citizen done that he would be lit up by the news and in jail on murder charges.

    Perhaps rightly so. Cops, please be careful. If you’re reading this article you’re probably smarter than 95% of the rest but handgun should not clear leather unless you are 99% sure that a threat exists.

    1. avatar Hannibal says:

      Reading the article is sounds as though they were investigating a report of people inside a vacant apartment under some sort of construction. Trespassers in the dark are a pretty good reason to unholster.

      But if you screw up and shoot someone, you’re to blame…

      1. avatar LarryinTX says:

        A good reason to unholster your flashlight, maybe. Otherwise, no. Hell, my wife and I sometimes wander around buildings under construction, WTF business is that of the police?

  6. avatar Jake Tallman says:

    Another cop wrongfully shot someone and is not being held responsible? This is my surprised face. No, really, I’m shocked.

    1. avatar Hannibal says:

      This happened less than a week ago… how do you know if he will or will not be held accountable? The last cop to do this was indicted this week on manslaughter charges.

      1. avatar Chris Mallory says:

        He should be cooling his heels in jail on attempted murder charges.

      2. avatar Jus Bill says:

        That was in NYC, the cop was a rookie, there was a witness to the shooting other than his partner, and the Michael Garner thing was still fresh in everyone’s mind. Mayor DeBlahblah was trying to regain brownie points with most of the residents of the city. He could have hit the guy with a wet sock and been indicted for assault and battery. Apples and oranges. I bet he gets a couple of days on a desk, if anything. It’s Bawdimoar, not where you live.

      3. avatar Grindstone says:

        If the shooter wasn’t a cop, he’d be in jail less than a week ago.

  7. avatar TravisP says:

    “Ever since TTAG hit the net, we’ve been arguing that there’s no such thing as an accidental discharge.” Except Remington Rifles and shotguns

  8. avatar Frank Masotti says:

    Another incident of cops not knowing how to handle their firearm. It seems those of us NOT in law enforcement are better trained and know how to handle our firearms.

  9. avatar gregory says:

    Here we go again with the obligatory bashing of all police again. That’s right, put all of us in one lumped together catagory as being incompetent, reckless shooters and killers. Of corse, all of you are smarter than all of us police and would survive on the job unscathed.

    1. avatar Ralph says:

      Of corse, all of you are smarter than all of us police and would survive on the job unscathed.

      So criticizing a cop who screwed up on the job is cop bashing, because police are above criticism and above the law, right? Got it.

      And stop with the “survive on the job” bullsh1t. In the last two years, cops have shot and killed over 800 people, including children. So surviving while you are on the job seems to be more of an issue for commoners, not cops.

      Nobody ever said that being a cop is easy — most jobs aren’t. If you can’t handle it, don’t worry. Walmart is hiring.

    2. avatar Chris Mallory says:

      You wear uniforms for a reason. If you don’t want to be part of a collective, quit and find honest work.

    3. avatar CCDWGuy says:

      I don’t believe this is a bashing of police. It is a reality that there is a double standard when it comes to someone, police or civilian discharging a weapon in a situation that is called “accidental”. Civilian goes to jail and police officer, on duty or freelancing, gets his/her union involved, has 24 hours to decide what happened with their lawyer and union official present and it’s determined that the “gun” did it, not the officer. Guns don’t just go off by themselves, this is about the language and it is a negligent discharge by an officer and should be held to the same level of responsibility as any civilian, as you are just civilians who happen to have a badge, that does not make you special or exempt from the law.

      1. avatar Jus Bill says:

        Psst, police ARE civilians.

    4. avatar Jus Bill says:

      This isn’t bashing the police. This is bashing an incompetent. Big difference.

    5. avatar Grindstone says:

      Please point out in the posting where *all* police are bashed? Unless you *all* have gun discipline issues, this is obviously not a bash. Stop playing the victim card, you volunteered for the job.

  10. avatar Garrison Hall says:

    As more and more private citizens begin to carry, and occasionally use, their own weapons for self-defense this is destined to become a growing public issue. What we’ve seen over the decades is typical bureaucratic mission-creep regarding the policy and practice of implied immunity. Police unions, lobbyists, and politicians have continued to “evolve” the idea of implied immunity until it now resembles “implied excuses” for any kind of police shooting. Now that more people are carrying and using guns, we’re seeing the consequence of the evolution in the form of a stark double-standard in which the same prosecutors and judges allow cops to walk away from shootings that will result in convictions and jail time for private citizens.

    The obvious solution is a level playing field. Rather than removing implied immunity from the police (something that would probably be quite dangerous), private citizens who defend themselves with guns ought to receive the same discretionary treatment that is now commonly reserved tor the police under implied immunity. Just being a police officer should not mean that you can walk away from shootings that would send a private citizen to jail.

  11. avatar Justsomeguy says:

    I am in agreement with the sentiment on this site and others, that cops are civilians. Unfortunately the dictionaries are not. By definition in every dictionary I’m familiar with, states that a civilian is other than the police and/or the military. Some times firemen are included.

    According to the dictionary, we have people in our midst that are equivalent to the military. I’ll let people make out of that what they may.

    JSG

    1. avatar Jim Barrett says:

      I guess it depends on your dictionary. Someone can correct me, but as I understand it, the distinction is technically whether someone is subject to civil law or whether they fall under the uniform code of military justice. Civilians are those who fall under civil law and would include anyone not active duty military. Reservists and other temporary duty soldiers are only subject to UCMJ when they are activated, otherwise, they would be under civil law.

      Granted, this is a distinction without a difference in the vernacular of the people, but in the end, the point is that there is no special carve out in the law for police or firefighters unless said carve out is granted by legislative authority.

      The biggest problem is not that police can’t technically be tried under the same laws as ordinary folks – rather its that the system charged with enforcing our laws (other police, prosecutors, judges, etc.) often work in concert to ensure that police who screw up are protected. The only way to fix this would be to create an entire independent branch of the judicial system that does not work with the police in its ordinary capacity. It would handle the investigation and grand jury indictments at which point an indicted officer would enter the justice system like any ordinary citizen.

      This idea of us versus them and the police being held to lower standards, yet presumed to be more competent than the average person is only going to backfire on everyone. The more police injure and kill innocent people without fear of prosecution, the greater the animosity will become towards police. In a real riot situation, police are often greatly outnumbered, but it is respect for authority and fear of consequence that keeps the majority from overrunning the police. If that respect for authority and fear of consequence erodes too much, the police will rapidly find themselves losing control and all hell will break loose.

      I don’t want to live in that world, so I hope to God we can find a way to move in a different direction.

      1. avatar int19h says:

        You’re absolutely right. That’s what the term “civilian” (originally French “civilien”) literally means, “under civil law”.

        Wikipedia gives a really ironic definition:

        “A civilian under the laws of war (also known as international humanitarian law) is a person who is not a member of his or her country’s armed forces or militias or who is not taking a direct part of hostilities in an armed conflict. Civilians are distinct from combatants. They are considered non-combatants and are afforded a degree of legal protection from the effects of combat and military occupation. In U.S. parlance, a civilian is also considered one not on active duty in the armed services, not a law enforcement officer, or not a firefighter.”

        And I’m fairly confident that even in US, it is a relatively recent change. I think it’s probably the consequence of declaring “wars” on things – like the infamous “war on drugs”. If you have a war, why, the people fighting it a soldiers, and they can’t be civilians…

      2. avatar LarryinTX says:

        Jim, it gets even more complex, sometimes, as active duty military come under BOTH civil law and UCMJ. Such as a military member who steals a car from his off-base neighbor. It’s the local police coming for him, not military police, they were after him last week when he went AWOL after punching out his boss.

    2. avatar Chip Bennett says:

      The dictionary is wrong. Police live under the civil law, rather than the military code, and are therefore civilian. There is military, and there is civilian. There is no other legal distinction.

  12. avatar gregory says:

    Ralph, your response was exactly what I expected, born out of ignorannce. Until you spends time in the shoes of a LEO, you are doing nothing more than speaking out of your ass.

    1. avatar Ralph says:

      The only reason that I spoke out of my ass is so you wouldn’t have to move your head to hear me.

      1. avatar Jus Bill says:

        POINT! SET! MATCH!

      2. avatar gregory says:

        I was talking about the ass atop your shoulders, not the one in your pants.

    2. avatar Jim Barrett says:

      So Gregory, rather than simply resorting to name calling, please enlighten us as to where Ralph is wrong. His statistic on the number of people killed by police is easily verifiable as is the statistic of officers killed on duty. Which for 2014 was 122, of which only about 59 were killed in some form of assault. Others died from hear attacks, motorcycle accidents, being accidentally struck by a car, etc.

      Furthermore, there are lists of the most dangerous jobs maintained by the BLS and police officer does not make the top ten.

      I’m not trying to say that you have an easy job. You don’t. What I (and others) are saying is that there is a wealth of examples every year of police doing highly questionable things yet are never subjected to the level of scrutiny that a private citizen is for a similar action.

      No one is going to question for one minute the officer who takes down the perp who is shooting back. We are however going to question things when people get shot who should not have been shot. I agree its not fair to armchair quarterback some of these things as we don’t have a complete account, but I do think that whenever a police officer is involved in a situation in which someone is injured or killed as a direct result of that officer’s action, that officer should be subjected to the same level of scrutiny an ordinary citizen would be. Are you cool with that or do you think that police officers are indeed better than the common folk and as such should be exempt from many of the rules we are required to follow?

    3. avatar Grindstone says:

      You’re defending shooting an innocent kid? Seriously? You should be fired and never able to get a job as a cop ever again.

    4. avatar LarryinTX says:

      And as long as you have that attitude, you need to find another line of work, you’re a thug and a bully, self important to a fault, and unfit to carry a gun in any situation short of armed conflict (war). Which is why you chose to be a police officer, right?

    5. avatar Jus Bill says:

      PTSD much?

  13. avatar Former Water Walker says:

    Touchy ain’t he Ralph? I live near Chicago. Very Often(like last night ) a trigger-happy PO-leece shoots a minority who “allegedly” pointed a gun at him(or her). Except when it’s a cell phone and the woman cop thinks it’s a gun. And costs the city $18000000…oh yeah I support non-corrupt and non-inept cops.

    1. avatar int19h says:

      Forget about how much it costs the city; is the shooter behind bars for murder? If not, then why not?

  14. avatar BlueBronco says:

    The media goes bonkers when a mom with a ccw license has negligent discharge or a child get hold of it. Yet it is 15x more likely to see the same things from LEO. Frankly, these officers should be meter maids at best with nothing but pepper spray.

  15. avatar mk10108 says:

    wear a uniform, put on a badge your a C*NT

    1. avatar Jus Bill says:

      That was not only uncalled for, it was grammatically horrible. Like Grade Four horrible.

    2. avatar LarryinTX says:

      And work with the likes of you? I think not. You might want to work on improving your image. Oh, I forgot, you don’t care.

  16. avatar Stratajema says:

    That wasn’t a negligent discharge. It was a criminal discharge of the gun.

  17. avatar Alan Rose says:

    Several years ago, the ICD (medical coding system) changed “Motor Vehicle Accident” to “Motor Vehicle Collision” for the same reason.

  18. avatar Peter says:

    “I intentionally pointed a loaded firearm at an innocent person, and then the inherently evil gun made itself discharge”

  19. avatar Cesare says:

    The firearm didn’t un-holster itself and neither did it aim itself, no doubt coincidentally and capriciously at a live human being of it’s own accord. It was and remains an inanimate object nothing more than an implement which in this case was plainly abused. As for police bashing, I find it hard not to notice this individual’s uniform and chosen profession along with fairly strong evidence of imbecility. Then again, I am old enough to remember when there were Peace Officers who were dedicated to keeping civil peace with the option to escalate. Now we seem blessed with Law Enforcement Officers who for the most part seem never to miss an opportunity for revenue and project a certain desire to escalate.

  20. avatar CM says:

    A woman carries her legal CW into New Jersey and faces 3 years in prison from a zealous DA. Off duty cop playing security guard shoots an unarmed kid and walks. Got it.

    Citizens aren’t stupid, Mr.”I have a Union behind me and I don’t have to worry like the little people do..” Citizens see the disparity in how the law is used to punish the ‘little people’ and excuse the almighty cop because “he has a tough job, it’s extra super dooper dangerous and you don’t understand because you aren’t a cop.”

    It makes us hate you for your smug immunity. It makes us distrust you, avoid you, suspect you of doing horrible things because you can get away with it.

    You are your own problem.

  21. avatar Martin B says:

    Let’s just accept that cop do a dangerous and thankless job, work long hours in often difficult conditions (on foot, in inclement weather) and whose main customers are criminals if not murderers. Let’s also accept that Police bosses have forgotten these hardships, and are only concerned with making the budget balance and sucking up to the politicians. There is never a proper budget for firearms training.

    Then consider that much of what cops do is for the benefit of banks and large corporations. Like evicting people who can no longer pay their mortgages, due to bank misdeeds, for which the banks receive no penalty. Like guarding corporate events and structures, when those corporations can well afford their own security. Like protecting local politicians, and again those leeches should protect themselves. Like constantly targeting parking and speeding offences for the city’s budget.

    Luke 3: 14 And some soldiers asked him (John the Baptist) “And what should we do?” He replied “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely – be content with your pay”.

    I would have added “And don’t shoot innocent people”. None of these requirements are easy.

    We should be grateful that any mistakes in our daily work don’t result in accidental death or injury to others. And have some compassion for those who stand in danger of precisely that peril. A bad day can happen to anyone.

    1. avatar Grindstone says:

      “Let’s just accept that cop do a dangerous”

      How dangerous? Got any data for that? Or are we just blindly accepting what you want to believe?

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