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The family of Craigory Adams wants to know if Fort Worth police officer Courtney Johnson shot their relative by accident. That depends on what you call an accident. From

A police officer on trial in a wrongful shooting case testified Monday that he was never trained to compensate for the type of accidental shooting in which he wounded a mentally ill man almost two years ago.

The officer has said he thought Adams was holding a knife, but it was actually a barbecue fork.

Johnson said he had to be ready to shoot [his shotgun] in case Adams tried to run. Johnson testified that there was a chance that Adams might attack someone in the neighborhood.

To retreat and wait for backup could have put residents in harm’s way, Johnson testified. And the way Adams reacted to his commands raised several red flags and put the police officer on edge.

“I need to be ready to fire,” Johnson said. “He dropped the knife directly in front of him. But it took him so long to do it. If he heard me the sixth or seventh time, he heard me the first time. That means he’s picking and choosing what he’s going to do.”

Let’s set aside the fact that Officer Johnson opted for a shotgun instead of his pistol — which would have facilitated a switch to a TASER (assuming no cop in his right mind would set down a loaded shotgun to grab his TASER).

Let’s also set aside debate over about whether or not Officer Johnson should have aimed his shotgun directly at Mr. Adams (as opposed to holding it at low-ready). And the fact that the Texas cop continued to aim his shotgun directly at Mr. Adams after the perp dropped his weapon.

I mean, we could Monday morning quarterback this into next week. We don’t now all the variables and, as always, we weren’t there. The real key to post-game analysis — flawed as it is — comes in the next bit or reporting:

Johnson, who said he was also apprehensive because Adams did not drop to both knees as commanded, disengaged his safety, pumped the shotgun, pointed his weapon at the suspect and held his trigger finger at the ready.

That’s when the gun went off, Johnson said.

To me, that means one thing: Officer Johnson’s finger was on the trigger. And despite Mr. Adam’s compliance — however belated — Officer Johnson decided that was time to disengage the safety and rack the shotgun. 

I suspect the shotgun “went off” as Officer Johnson racked the shotgun. His boss pins the blame elsewhere:

Cmdr. Albert Rodriguez, who has trained Texas Department of Public Safety troopers on use-of force issues, testified Monday that Johnson was following standard police training by disengaging the safety and pointing the weapon at Adams.

Rodriguez attributed the unintentional discharge to a physical phenomenon called sympathetic reflex — the tendency of the muscles in one hand to mimic the actions of the other hand, Rodriguez said.

The brain does not even figure into it, Rodriguez explained, and said this is the first time he has ever seen sympathetic reflex related to a shotgun. People are familiar with this type of unintentional discharge happening to officers while they are handling a handgun, Rodriguez said.

Sympathetic reflex  is a well-known danger for armed police. But the reaction would have had zero effect on the shotgun if Officer Johnson didn’t have his finger on the trigger.

For some reason, the DA prosecuting Officer Johnson focused on the shotgun’s safety.

Jacob Mitchell, Tarrant County assistant district attorney, asked Rodriguez if other training officers had testified during the trial whether safeties are to be left engaged until the decision to fire is reached.

Rodriguez said yes.

Mitchell also asked Rodriguez if the safety on Johnson’s shotgun had been engaged, wouldn’t Adams have escaped being accidentally shot?

Rodriguez said Mitchell was correct, but also suggested that the number of alternative ways Adams could have avoided being accidentally shot were endless.

Like . . . not having his finger on the trigger until he decided to shoot. Sigh. So simple. So obvious. So important.

In the video at the link (still image above), Mr. Adams’ family say they want the truth about what happened. Well, there it is. All other considerations aside, Officer Johnson wasn’t trained to keep his finger off the trigger until he was ready to shoot.

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  1. *grabs a bag of popcorn in anticipation of “Hey, I control my trigger finger all the time” comments*

    • Until a person faces a threat or perceived threat they really don’t know how they will react. I would hope that I would always keep my finger off the trigger until I consciously made the decision to fire, but ——-

      • But you would agree that somebody who screws up ONCE Zane shoots somebody by mistake should NEVER Abe allowed to wear a badge again right ?

      • If I’ve made the decision to draw my weapon and point, you can be sure that my finger is ON the trigger. I’ve already made the decision to fire the weapon. That said, I’m not a police officer. I’ve not been trained to pull my weapon on every “potentially dangerous” encounter. When my weapon is out, it’s only because it’s going to be used.

  2. “That’s when the gun went off, Johnson said.” Why when these things are reported on do they make it seem as if guns just go off?

    • Hey, just ask any Liberal anti, guns not only just go off, they can actually take on a life of their own and kill people without a ganger holding them.

      • Yes, that’s true. What’s weird though is that whenever my Glock becomes sentient it speaks with an Austrian accent even though it was made in Georgia…

  3. Man. I don’t care how you feel about cops. If a cop is pointing a gun, especially a shotgun, at you follow his orders. Don’t drag your feet. Don’t make him any more nervous or twitchy than he already is. It will not end well for you.

    Make a habit of living your life so that cops don’t have to approach you with guns drawn.

    • I think you missed the part that said the peep was mentally ill. They don’t always react the same.

      • True. But to modify an argument we see here often about people that are to dangerous to trust with a weapon are to dangerous to be on the streets.

        If you’re too mentally ill to follow simple directions from a cop you need to be in a facility.

        • “people that are to dangerous to trust with a weapon are to dangerous to be on the streets”, you mean like poorly trained police that can’t control their emotions in a stressful situation?

        • He’s on trial, dev. Maybe his policing days is over. I know nothing of his track record. Maybe he should never have been a cop.

        • He had his finger on the trigger when he pumped the shotgun. That would indicate to me that he’s non compos mentis. I’d say it was pretty obvious to everyone around. It’s too bad the officer did not see that in himself, but maybe nobody ever pointed it out to him.
          Oh, wait. You were talking about the innocent victim. Carry on!

      • Also he was holding a BBQ fork. And he may have been simply confused when he was told to drop the knife.

        Of course NONE of this matters , since the cop admits to A shooting him After he dropped the weapon and B shooting him
        By accident.

  4. Kaban
    To start the ball rolling then almost 50 years of shooting including 15 in army, 500 rounds plus a day at time I haven’t fired yet when I didn’t plan to.

    Panic, bad training or both.

    • Likely both. He stated he thought the man had a knife. A knife invokes a visceral reaction in a lot of folks. Takes an already bad situation to a whole other level.

      • If you’re within about 30 feet, the target of the person with the blade and have two neurons to rub together it should scare the shit out of you.

        Having gone hand to hand (4v1 mind you) with a guy attacking people with a knife I can tell you that while you might not “panic” it certainly raises the level of the encounter. We beat the fucking shit out of this guy to the point that bystanders told the cops we needed to be arrested. [Honestly, I can see why. If you attacked someone and beat them in the face with a 16oz hammer for a number of minutes that’s what he looked like. No teeth remaining, eyes swelled shut like he just did 12 rounds of bareknuckle boxing, blood everywhere, the flesh of his face looked like ground beef. He was a mess. Considering the kicks and stomps I put into his head I’m shocked he was still conscious but drugs, rage and whisky is a heck of a combination.]

        The cops were cool about it though. “He had a knife, he refused to drop the knife, you did what you had to do to make him drop the knife” is how they looked at it. Never did find out what happened to the guy. A detective called both of us the next morning for a secondary statement but we never heard from the cops about that incident again. Neither of us received a subpoena to testify. He probably plead it out but then again after what we did to him I wouldn’t be surprised if he died later in the night.

        • In my experience the kind of folks that you have to beat down with a hammer are well known to the cops. The last time I was shot at the cops got the guy. He had so many warrants and convictions that just having the gun was a major bit of dumbassery on his part. Between the warrants, his new charges and his past record all I had to do was say, yes, he shot at me.

          After that I never was involved again.

  5. Um-m, what did I miss? Why was the shotgun employed for a lone assailant with a perceived edged weapon? This person/LEO actually took the time to unsecure the shotgun and present it; instead of using the holstered duty firearm? or was that duty firearm locked in the trunk?

    I cannot help but wonder –what the backfield– of the supposed assailant was like.

    I point to at least one –Mental Health– issue with the shotgun toting person/LEO.

    • He probably left his pistol in a bathroom stall or left his car unlocked with it on the front seat & it was stolen.

  6. “…in case Adams decided to run.” Whether in a cruiser or on foot, for their own good cops need to develop the attitude of “We’ll get him next time, which will be soon enough.”
    “…there was a chance that Adams might attack someone in the neighborhood.” No evidence to support that, but a lot of evidence that the officer wouldn’t tolerate the contempt of cop of not immediately obeying confusing instructions or, God forbid, running.
    Being a cop is a shitty, dangerous job. But just think about retiring at 45 with a nice pension and then double-dipping with another government agency.

  7. Wait, what? Was he racking the shotty after having it already pointed it at the guy? If he had it in a “cruiser ready” status he should have racked it immediately after exiting his patrol vehicle, no? So, what I gather is he had finger on trigger, disengaged safety, and then while working the action he shot and killed a guy …. geez.

  8. I don’t think police chiefs would be defending Joe Public in similar circumstances. Joe wouldn’t have to confront a mentally ill man in the street either. Neither should have done so alone, more men should have been sent by dispatch.
    And fingers should always sit near but not on a trigger when pointed at a man who is not moving. If he told him 6 times and he stood there then his indecision actually bought time and warranted distance from him.
    I agree with the training argument but a man is dead and he should face manslaughter.

    • “I don’t think police chiefs would be defending Joe Public in similar circumstances. Joe wouldn’t have to confront a mentally ill man in the street either.”

      “Joe wouldn’t have to confront a mentally ill man in the street either.”

      I don’t know why you would say that. I really don’t.
      Rather obviously, this man wasn’t somehow confined to a house, he was able to walk the streets. As are a LOT of other mentally ill people, including those who (in hindsight, usually) are considered dangerous.

  9. I somehow don’t think that a man with a barbecue fork, who’s just too slow to comply with police commands, is the kind of imminent threat to the public that was envisioned in Tennessee v. Garner.

    • In a situation like that I hope I would handle it better.

      But……..a barbecue fork can be large and pointy. I wouldn’t want one jammed into my body at any point and might get emotional if you tried.

      • Sure, and maybe you could stab your ballpoint pen through someone’s eye into their brain. Maybe they could throw their change into their sock and use it as a flail. There’s a reason why the standard involves a reasonable perception of imminent threat, not “anything short of being naked and comatose”.

  10. Eh, we’ll see how it plays out. Though it does seem like the worst that would have happened was everyone would need new drawers if he’d had the shotty at the low ready.

  11. It might vary, but I have never met a police firearm where you were trained to point it at someone with the safety on. You are, however, supposed to keep your finger off the bang-switch until you’re ready to fire. And you’re definitely supposed to keep your shit together and not pull the trigger.

    There’s also some legally iffy intentions detailed in that article (so, if this guy would have fled with a BBQ fork, he would have caught 00 buckshot in the back? That would have been fun to explain to his family too).

  12. If he was not properly trained with the shotgun, then what was he doing with a shotgun?

  13. Well, this is a first: two mentally ill morons facing off, one with a BBQ fork and the other with a shotgun.

  14. How many new defense cases could be built from this decision?? But, your Honor, it was a sympathetic reflex that caused this.What’s good for the goose is good for the gander…

  15. I don’t know what Fort Worth does for their firearms training but one of the “Big Four” firearms rules is one my old department stresses in recruit training, officer requalification, and LEOSA training/requalification, that one being “You don’t put your trigger finger inside the trigger guard unless you’re going to shoot right then.” Obviously, this basic tenet of firearms safety was either not taught or disregarded/forgotten by the officer. I went for LEOSA requal the other day and I don’t know how many times that basic rule of firearms safety was reiterated, but it was MANY.

  16. So two immediate thoughts. If I see a *thing* I do not feel qualified to handle or have not gotten training on – if it has the potential to do harm if I use it wrong, I get some training or do some research on proper use.

    Second thought, as with all firearms – no finger on trigger, no boom. Same rule applies to all firearms and this guy should stop deflecting and start realizing the failure here was his.

  17. Finger on the trigger, safety off and rack the shotgun: BOOM
    He squeezed that trigger while racking the shotgun. ND or not it doesn’t look good for the officer.

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