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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.

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  1. There should be some consequences to this. Who’s to say a bad officer wouldn’t try to use “taser confusion” as an affirmative defense for the intentional killing of a suspect?

    • That’s right. Who’s to say that’s not what she did. Although, her having done it a couple of other times does argue for her just repeating the same old mistake over and over again.

      My one strike you’re out rule would have had her riding a desk and doing clerical work after the first incident. Aren’t you the same guys who argue against that when I propose it? Aren’t you the ones who say people learn from their mistakes?

  2. And bad officer aside, even if this is a structural failure at the training level, there should still be consequences.

    And doesn’t this happen often enough that we should question the whole premise of tasers (and thus their ballistic doppelgangers) being the first line of violent coercion – erm, I mean voluntary compliance.

  3. Y’know, just last week I shot my neighbor in the face, but I was able to get off because I thought I was lighting his cigarette. You see, I carry a cigarette lighter in my pocket, right next to my 642, and for the life of me I thought that I pulled the lighter from my pocket and not my .38. Well, was my face red when I drilled my neighbor right through his coconut with the Hornady Personal Defense! Twice, actually, because usually my lighter doesn’t flame on the first strike. Fortunately, the local police were very understanding and told me that the same thing could happen to anyone.

    • >Well, was my face red when I drilled my neighbor right through his coconut >with the Hornady Personal Defense!

      I’m sure his face was pretty red, too… 🙂

  4. I made a mistake so there should be no consequence to my actions.

    I’ll remember this one in case I ever mistakenly shoot some poor schlub in the back of my Crown Vic.

  5. This is just another B.S. excuse like the “He was reaching for his waistband so I had to shoot him”. Not to mention the fact that Tasers are far, far, far overused as well. There is no excuse for deploying a potentially lethal weapon as a punitive measure or to enforce compliance from a restrained subject. It’s excessive force at the least, if not assault with a deadly weapon. At the very,very least Taser needs to rethink the form factor of their “less-lethal” weapon and ideally would restrain themselves from touting their product as the solution to every problem an officer faces. A high dollar class action lawsuit against them for their reprehensible business practices would be a good place to start.

  6. This wasn’t a freak accident either. It happened in, IIRC, Oakland too. Cop thought he had his Taser in his hand, but it was his Glock instead. I say there is an equipment component to the problem, as well as a training problem.

  7. They need to paint their tasers red and their Glocks green. This would not arouse any attention since they already have the toes of the their shoes painted left and right. Also, they should make the feel of them different in the hand instead of trying to standardize all equipment to appear alike. Maybe a soft squishy foam handle on the taser and a crinkled tin foil finish on the pistol would work. Perhaps renaming the taser and Glock to “Left and Right” and carry them that way would be the best solution, since the shoes are already set up for that.

  8. Nine years later and the lawsuit is still in the system? She did not face charges? A few years ago, a BART Transit Cop (San Francisco Bay Area Transit) did something very similar. It was a busy holiday weekend for the police. While assisting other BART police in holding down a man at the Oakland CA train station he shot and killed a man.

    Later he said he had thought it was his tazer that he pulled out. Some of his defenders said that his wife had just given birth two days earlier and he was exhausted with the new baby. He was ‘quickly’ prosecuted and convicted, and spent time in prison. Some of the political differences were that: 1) he was a male cop vs. the female cop in the story — I’m not too surprised. 2) he was white and the man he killed was an African-American so there was that dynamic which caused rioting in Oakland. Torres and Noreiga are both Hispanic names so charges of racism couldn’t be alleged. 3) the BART shooting took place in Oakland CA an extremely liberal city with a history of being racially explosive.

    Even if both officers made a tragic human mistake (or not) they should be prosecuted for it. They took the job. Along with power comes responsibility. Same thing with owning a gun by a civilian. Just try using the I thought it was my tazer excuse after shooting someone on the street who attacked you when you don’t have a CC permit.

  9. If you stuff someone in the back of your police car, aren’t they supposed to be belted in? How did he get his feet pointed at the window? I’m surprised the cops didn’t let him kick the window out so they could then also charge him with destruction of public property.

    I’m not a big fan of Tasers, this crap happens to often. However, they are out there and until the citizens stand up and prohibit their use. It’s going to continue happening.

    Tasers shouldn’t be shaped like firearms, nor should them be carried in similar holsters. There shouldn’t even have been a stress/time factor in this shooting and yet a ‘mistake’ was made. The more I think about it, the more I think this was intentional.

    • The more I think about it, the more I think this was intentional.

      Which is why the police and their political masters would rather that we didn’t think about it. It makes whitewashing police misconduct so much more difficult.

      • I’m with you Ralph, because I think she got pissed that he kicked the door into her so she popped him.

  10. Isn’t there some sort of legislation in CA about air-soft guns needing to be pink, orange, red, etc.? The state house should make a law requiring the police carry pink pistols, tasers neon green. That should help with the confusion. I mean, if it’s good enough for us to have off-color fake weapons to save them from being confused, it would be a win win for them to have similar laws.

  11. If you can’t tell the difference between a plastic taser and a loaded glock in your hand, whether you look at the thing or not, you have no business being trusted serving coffee or pumping gas, much less carrying a firearm around in public.

    Negligent manslaughter at best if one offers up a rather large benefit of the doubt.

  12. It is just reprehensible. We all have suspects that piss us off that we would love to shoot but we don’t do it. My issue with this is it was something I knew had to happen. Same side weaponry is insane. My duty rig keeps that section of the belt for my sidearm alone. No baton or anything else in the vicinity. Makes my rig a little lopsided but I get my OC when I want my OC and no, my .40 Glock stays right in her Safariland holster. That way his face is full of Sabre foam, not lead when its uncalled for.

    • LC, do you think a manual safety on one or both might have prevented this? I’ve never handled a taser, but it seems to me if the LEO had an external safety on her sidearm this could have been prevented.

      • There is one on the Taser. In the article the officer admitted to disengaging the manual safety earlier that night to reduce draw time. That tells me that even if she had a Berreta M9, for example, with a manual safety she would have disengaged that for convenience of draw as well.In this case manual safety catches could not have prevented this. It’s more practice and familiarity, which she lacked, that killed someone unintentionally.

        • Wow. That’s unsettling to say the least. My presentation time is pretty much the same between my 1911 and my Glock. My CZ75-Sa is a fraction slower because my hands are small and I’m a lefty so there’s a little bit longer reach for me and I occasionally fumble slightly, but not enough for me to disregard safe procedure over. This sounds like a training fail all the way.

          • It is less a training failure and more blatant operator error. Nowhere in the course do they advise disengaging the safety prior to deployment hours before. Of that I am sure. She made a bad call and that, combined with a much more egregious error cost a man his life. A safety on the pistol wouldn’t have neccesarily prevented this either as proper draw techniques are muscle memory so she could have easily disengaged a manual safety if the weapon had such a feature in theory. Same side force options are not safe. Strong hand should be sidearm only. I dislike even a baton butting up on my pistol.

  13. The same way Oscar Grant was executed a couple years ago on a BART station platform. Theres a youtube video of it out there.

  14. Local depts. w/”taser” guns MANDATE that the taser be a crossdraw or weak hand draw ONLY to prevent “confusion” with lethal weapons on the strongside. Deploying on the strongside thigh is asking for trouble for almost any officer, no matter what the situation.

  15. I have a few issues. One, she cups the bottom of her grip to shoot… is she from 1965? Two, it’s not alright to point a gun at her partner’s head, but a taser is fine? Three… she turned the safety off on a weapon which can be lethal?

    Lack of training plus lack of common sense plus opening department up to other lawsuits by disengaging a safety device “ahead of time”…
    Sounds like someone got into the wrong line of work.

  16. TASER is who I’d sue.
    They design and market a product for law enforcement that was intentionally designed to be as close to (which means confused with) a Glock or similar handgun.
    Taser should be sued until they stop selling the LE model to cops.
    Cops should be limited to the pink civy model.
    Citizens should be the only ones allowed to have the big bad police Taser, but it should be a bright orange so cops don’t confuse it with a real gun.

  17. As a family member I ask you to respect him and his picture with a better caption come on now Don’t taze me Bro from Hell?? Really?? You should be banned from guns too if you’re putting disrespectful captions

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