On October 27, 2002, the Madera (CA) police arrested Everardo Torres [above] after a local party got out of control. An officer handcuffed Torres and stashed him in the back of a patrol car. When Torres started kicking the rear door window nearby cops reckoned someone should “tase” the perp before he kicked out the glass. Officer Marcie Noriega opened the cruiser door with her left hand, drew her .40 caliber Glock with her right, and fired one shot, killing Torres. Officer Noriega did not face charges. In subsequent legal action, Officer Noriega claimed she meant to draw her TASER. The Torres’ family’s lawsuit against the city is still in the system. [Click here for the most recent judgement.] In an email blast, Force Science News provides a bullet point summary of why the fatal mistake is not [exclusively] the officer’s fault . . .
• As instructed when it was issued, the officer carried her Taser “in a thigh holster immediately below her holstered Glock on her dominant right side.” Earlier on the night of the shooting, she had turned off the safety on her Taser, to enable its quicker deployment.• Reaching down, she unsnapped the holster holding her Glock, removed the gun, aimed its laser at the suspect’s center mass, put her left hand under the gun for support, and pulled the trigger, “all without looking at the weapon in her hand.” Both weapons had laser components.
• Twice previously the officer had confused the 2 weapons, once when trying to reholster her gun and her Taser after a jail visit and again when trying to drive-stun a combative suspect during a field encounter. The latter time she ended up pointing her mistakenly drawn pistol at her partner’s head.
• Frightened by that potentially tragic error, she told her sergeant, who advised her to “keep practicing” in drawing her Taser and in distinguishing between the 2 weapons. She informally “practiced” daily on her own for 9 months leading up to the shooting, but underwent no “formal” retraining.
• Her initial training had consisted of a single 3-hour class, during which she fired the weapon only once. There was no discussion during that session of the weapon-confusion risk nor of weapon-confusion incidents that had occurred on other departments.