Passively Constructed Negligent Discharge Story of the Day: Fleeing Car Thief Edition


“An officer’s weapon accidentally fired when a fleeing auto thief’s open car door struck the officer in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood Saturday morning,” reports. In fact, the headline writer reckons Fleeing car thief causes accidental gun discharge by SF officer. You say accidental, I say negligent. Let’s call the whole thing slightly off. Actually, more than slightly. Check this out . . .

The incident occurred around 10:40 a.m. near the intersection of Montgomery and Broadway streets after the officer approached the driver of a parked stolen vehicle, according to San Francisco police spokesman Albie Esparza.

Esparza said upon seeing the officer, the suspect began to drive away. A car door was ajar, and the force of the vehicle accelerating caused it to fly open, hitting the officer and causing the officer’s weapon to fire a round, the spokesman said.

He said he initially thought that a patrol car may have been hit, prompting the officer to fire a round, but later learned that wasn’t the case.

In other words, the SF PD made up a story about the negligent discharge for the media without talking to the officer, then changed the tale when it didn’t quite line-up with the officially official account. Of course, ND story 2.0 still suggests that merely striking a firearm with a car door will cause it to fire, regardless of the location of the officer’s trigger finger at the time of impact.

The officer was unharmed in the incident, which is being investigated by the police department’s Internal Affairs unit, the spokesman said.

Officers later recovered the stolen car nearby in the 700 block of Clay Street. Police found that the vehicle had been punctured by a bullet but no evidence of any injuries, Esparza said.

Judging from this account the police better lock that not-car-safe gun up pronto, and perform tests on similar weapons to see if they share the same obvious defect. Or not. [h/t JLM]


  1. avatar Dirk Diggler says:

    only question I have is, was the “thief” in the vicinity of Leland Yee’s SF abode, and if yes, does the thief have a shitload of Triad tats? 🙂

    Leland. . . . . they are coming for ya. . . . rat now.

  2. avatar Dave s says:

    What bothers me is getting a gun close enough to a door for it to get knocked by the door. I am not sure how close to the armed suspect you get before your finger drifts toward the trigger…

    1. avatar B says:

      Car doors close when you drive off. If he was backing up then the officer would have been dragged by the door as it hit him and was held open. Shoebox of liiiieiiii iiiii iiiiiiiis.

      1. avatar John says:

        Exactly, not to mention that if a weapon does discharge due to being hit by a car door the department should immediately begin looking for a different service weapon as the one currently in use has a pretty big flaw. It’s only a matter of time till they get so bad that when an officer is running that the weapon is going to fire with every other step. . . and you don’t want to slap em on the butt for a job well done.

      2. avatar Gunr says:

        Exactly what I was thinking. I was wondering if maybe he was driving one of those 64 Lincoln convertible’s, who’s back doors opened from the front, and it was the back door they were talking about.

  3. avatar webpawn says:

    Reporter’s unprovoked question causes police spokesman to discharge his mouth accidentally. Further investigation determined that a pre-conceived notion had been accidentally placed on his oral trigger, causing the premature oration.

    1. avatar ropingdown says:

      …and that’s more accurate than the story which was offered. Nice.

  4. avatar gold bond says:

    Pardon my French but, I call BULLSHIT.

  5. avatar James R says:

    “A car door was ajar, and the force of the vehicle accelerating caused it to fly open, hitting the officer ”

    I’m confused about how this makes physical sense. Can I get a diagram or something?

    1. avatar DavidT says:

      It only works in two cases. First, and most likely, is that the car accelerated in reverse, causing the not-latched door to open. The second would be if the car had what are referred to as “suicide doors” which hinge in the rear. The last American made car I can think of that would be like this is a mid-60s Lincoln Continental four door, otherwise it would be a custom car.

      1. avatar Robert Farago says:

        Mazda RX-7.

      2. avatar Salty Bear says:

        Mazda RX-8

      3. avatar James R says:

        Or it was a Delorean and the gull wing door proceeded to upper-cut the officer

      4. avatar Nigil says:

        Saturn coupe.

      5. avatar ht4 says:

        A hard right turn will cause the driver’s door to fly open… a hard left will do the same on the passenger side. Assuming the whole story is not complete hogwash (admittedly, a leap of faith), this seems the most likely scenario to me.

  6. avatar Your Friendly Neighborhood Anon says:

    Wait, did I misunderstand something? The acceleration caused the door to open? Newton’s 3rd law says it must be a funky door.

    1. avatar James R says:

      oops I accidentally physics

    2. avatar Greg G. says:

      I suppose he could have been accelerating in reverse, but it doesn’t read that way. Stuck out to me too.

    3. avatar BDub says:

      No laws of physics are being violated. Even a slight turn of the wheel, lets say to dodge an oncoming officer, is enough to cause a car door that isn’t properly closed to fly open.

      The ND is B.S. we all know it, but there is no need to get distracted by the door part of the story, its perfectly plausible.

  7. avatar Paul G. says:

    Acceleration usually causes doors to shut. Perhaps in a cornering maneuver, or with an old car with suicide doors, but not with straight line acceleration and any modern car.

  8. avatar Chris. says:

    This is weird – Car is a lethal weapon. Driver hits officer with car – officer returns fire… Why would they need feel the need to make up any kind of story?

    1. avatar Mmmtacos says:

      Yeah, this disconcerts me as well. Why cover it up in the first place? I still think that what they reported is bullshit by all accounts, but why bullshit? Are they worried about some civil suit cause the officer fired in a public place with no threat on life at someone who was getting away or something? That’s the only explanation I can think of.

    2. avatar Timbo says:

      Force of habit…

  9. avatar Clay says:

    I am cutting some slack for the officer on this one. Unless there is video showing all the events leading up to it that might change my mind.
    However the PD was way off base. In fact LIED about the events.

    1. avatar Heretical Politik says:

      I don’t get it either. So the thief tried to run over a cop, and the cop shot back. What’s wrong with that? Why the whole ND story?

      1. avatar William Burke says:

        “Strangers in town”. That’s what.

      2. avatar ropingdown says:

        “Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.”

  10. avatar Mark N. says:

    The bothersome thing is that we are not being told the truth as to what happened. Not saying there wasn’t a legit shots fired incident, just that the story we are being given stinks to high heaven. I mean, I could understand if the officer was approaching from the front of the vehicle, and the thief opened the door purposely to strike the officer–it could happen.

  11. avatar former water walker says:

    Maybe it was a Glock “safe action” pistol? And why oh why is anyone giving the cop a pass?

  12. Impossible. CA only allows safe handguns and they are extensively drop tested.

  13. avatar tfunk says:

    If only it had been a smart gun there would have been no way for the cop to have an ND with it.

  14. avatar Hannibal says:

    I wonder if they have a departmental policy against shooting at moving vehicles.

  15. avatar Anon says:

    Not a problem. In Austin, TX if you are a cop and discharge your weapon, career over. My guess is in SF, any attempt by police to physically or otherwise stop a perp will be viewed as “Your career is over!”.

    So make up a story, once again, blame it on the gun.

    Actually, the copy took the shot, hit the car but does not want to admit it.

    They are kinda liberal in SF,

    Just sayin’

  16. avatar tj says:

    Only other thing that might make sense is the car door was OPEN and accelerating closed it on the cops hand. I could label that an AD as in, I accidently fird a round into the car, but I was aiming at the dude trying to run me over. also, many trucks have suicide doors in the back.

  17. avatar 'liljoe says:

    car door slightly open, car accelerates and sharply turns to right side at the same time, momentum will cause the door to swing open quickly (clipping the cop) and then swing shut… and now, why not wait until Monday before Monday-morning quarterbacking? I’ve done this with my car, sans cop and gun though…

    1. Explain the bullet hole on the car. Gun had to be pointed at it. Probably when the occupant was running away from the cop hell bent on bustin caps in his ass.

  18. avatar Jake Tallman says:

    “An officer’s weapon accidentally fired”. You know, you gotta appreciate the balls to use such blatant manipulation of the English language. No, it’s not “an officer’s weapon WAS accidentally fired”, but rather, “an officer’s weapon accidentally fired”, with the wording insinuating that firearms are sentient things, and the didn’t mean to fire itself, but it did, because as we all know, guns are horrible things that are fully sentient and have an insatiable thirst for blood (especially the blood of children).

    1. avatar Mark N. says:

      Why do you think they call them “smart’ weapons? They MUST be sentient, right?

  19. I’d like to see them tell the truth for once…”upon approaching the vehicle, I saw that the occupant was a black male and immediately assumed the car was stolen. I then fired a shot at his face but missed and was prevented from emptying my magazine into the vehicle by the arrival of another officer who I was afraid would testify against me.”

  20. avatar John M says:

    Modern trucks and the RX-8 have suicide doors that are designed to be inoperable while the car is in gear…

    The SFPD carry .40 Cal Sigs (used to carry the Beretta 96, but they phased it out around 2004 because it wasn’t “accurate enough” for some officers to qualify with)

    In CA LEOs can own non-CA DOJ approved firearms…

    And Broadway and Montgomery is no where near Yee’s Sunset neighbourhood home (that’d be all the way across town)

    1. avatar CharlesDC says:

      226 for most, 229 for the smaller hands – according to a few QA sessions with said officers.

    2. avatar Hannibal says:

      Does that mean you cannot operate the vehicle when the door is ajar?

  21. avatar PT Clay says:

    In a city as liberal as San Fransisco, I would find it far more likely that the officer either fired at the car when it accelerated towards him, or had his finger on the trigger and pointed at the vehicle when it sped away and jolted him enough to fire an unintentional shot, and the PD came up with a very implausible scenario to forestall city-wide complaints, protests, and shrieking news media reporters about “trigger-happy” officers shooting at a fleeing subject that is not known to be armed. As it is, I’m just going to take this report as a “trial run” explanation until something that makes better sense comes along. Stories tend to change as more information comes up–whether for better or worse depends on the honesty of those telling the tale.

    1. avatar 16V says:

      SF only appears to be ‘liberal’ standing on the outside. It’s really very authoritarian, and the cops are as corrupt as any banana republic.

      1. avatar PT Clay says:

        “Liberal” and “authoritarian” mean the same thing to me. 😉 I’ve yet to met a liberal that didn’t turn into a frothing, rabid intolerant jackass the moment someone disagreed with them.

  22. avatar William Burke says:

    Yep, that’s an after-the-fact made up tale, all right. They’re not good at it. Which doesn’t matter; they know they can just make up some bullshit and get away with it.

    Terrible message, from my point of view.

  23. avatar Dan says:

    Wow….not the po po isn’t even TRYING to come up with believable lies.
    They just throw out whatever drek they like and expect it to fly.

  24. avatar 16V says:

    Shoot First, Positively Doesn’t matter…

    Having lived there for 4 years, there are things about SF I do really love. The cops? They make Dirty Harry look really, really by-the-book.

  25. avatar DaveL says:

    No way this is credible. You expect me to believe he struck an officer and only one shot was fired?

  26. I actually practice firing my handgun by hitting it with my car door. You must be prepared for encounters with car doors. They love to shoot handguns.

  27. avatar Dogman says:

    You say “negligent”, I say if it wasn’t meant to happen it’s “accidental”. Too much lawyer-speak in the word
    “negligence” these days.

    1. avatar Alpo says:

      In terms of unintended discharges, the distinction is important.

      The vast majority of unintended discharges are the result of some negligence on the part of the person handling the weapon.

      That could be finger on the trigger; not completely unloading the weapon; pulling the trigger without making sure it’s unloaded; ‘playing ‘around’ with a gun (whether one thinks it’s loaded or unloaded).

      Those are ALL negligent discharges and the operator is at fault.
      An accidental discharge only occurs when the operator has followed all safety protocols and yet and unforeseen event (like a mechanical failure) results in the weapon being discharged. Those are rare.

  28. avatar Delbert Grady says:

    Trigger happy cop shoots wildly in the street, misses target, hits everything else. This is news anymore?

  29. avatar Michael in GA says:

    Besides conflicting stories, the truth could have been the final version. The cop makes the stolen vehicle. He approaches from the rear. He sees a person in the drivers seat and the door slightly open. He draws his weapon and orders the driver out of the vehicle. Driver accelerates in reverse and the door flies open. Officer has firearm in low ready position in right hand with finger outside the guard. Officer tries to side step the car but when the door fully opens it strikes the muzzle of the gun twisting it in the officers grip causing finger to contact the trigger.
    Totally plausible.

    1. avatar rlc2 says:

      +1. Occam’s Razor.

    2. avatar Alpo says:

      SFPD service weapon is the Sig P226 (229 for small handed cops). That a double-action, hammer fired pistol with a 10lb DA pull, no safety.
      I’m not saying it’s impossible for a someone’s finger to slip into the trigger AND put 10lbs of pressure on the bang switch from being bumped. But it is pretty unlikely.

      Possible explanations, in order of plausibility and percentage of likelihood:
      -Finger on the trigger. (99%)
      -Officer carries his service weapon in condition zero: cocked and unlocked. (0.5%)
      -Officer carries in condition three and racked the slide when he drew the weapon. (0.25%)
      -Officer followed all safety rules but a bump set the round off. (0.13%)
      -Magic. (0.12%)

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