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“A bullet fired accidentally from a colleague’s gun fatally struck in the chest a sergeant with 20 years in law enforcement, an emotional Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims said Tuesday.” So reports The Fresno Bee. The deceased officer is 46-year-old Sgt. Rod Lucas. He was in a meeting with three other officers discussing, ironically enough, firearm safety.

The gun went off as Lucas and three colleagues gathered Monday afternoon in a room at the sheriff’s special investigations unit office near Fresno Yosemite International Airport. …Lucas and a colleague, described only as a detective, were discussing safety of backup weapons when the detective’s gun went off.

Regular readers will recognize the characteristically passive construction of that sentence. “The gun went off….” As anyone who knows anything about guns, let alone gun safety, can tell you, guns don’t just “go off.” They’re fired. By human beings. The un-named detective, in this case.

The incident still is being investigated. (Fresno County Sheriff Margaret) Mims said the detective whose gun went off has not been interviewed, nor had the sheriff spoken to him, “because of his mental state,” she said. “We’re giving him the time he needs,” said Mims, who declined to identify the detective by name. “We’re taking care of him.”

No doubt Sgt. Lucas’s wife and four children are getting the same kind of care. We certainly hope so.

The lesson: complacency kills. No matter how long you’ve been carrying or how familiar you are with firearms, adherence to the four rules works every time it’s tried. That’s something the overwhelming majority of gun owners do every single day, which is why there are so few of these kinds of accidents in a nation with more than  300 million guns and well over 100 million gun owners.

The un-named detective in this case had to have violated at least two of those rules (muzzle direction and finger on the trigger). And now he’ll have to live with the result for the rest of his life. Don’t be that guy.

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    • If you follow ALL the rules religiously, a single screw-up will (usually) not result in a death or serious injury. The rules are redundant, and this “depth of safety” means you (usually) have to violate more than one rule for someone to get hurt/killed.

      No details on this case yet, obviously, but this kind of stuff NORMALLY happens when somebody feels like they don’t have to follow ALL the rules ALL the time, and start picking and choosing which ones they will follow. Complacency (as said above), arrogance, I-know-what-I’m-doing/I’m-smart-enough-to-get-away-with-this (also known as “I’m the only one professional enough…”), etc.

      It’s so sad, because it’s so simple.

      Follow ALL the rules, ALL the time, to the best of your ability. Full stop.

      • True enough, but easier said. Do I ever muzzle myself or someone else? Only every time that I carry appendix or in a pocket. Do I ever pull the trigger without intending to fire- sure, whenever I dry fire or field strip. Treat every gun as though loaded- well, see above. Be certain of your backstop? Most of the time, see above. Truth is, I break at least one of the four rules on a daily basis. I’m sure most people do.

        The best advice I’ve heard is to assume that you’re going to have an ND someday, that you just don’t know when or where. It’s sobering.

        • I said it was simple, I didn’t say it was easy.

          For instance, no one is forcing you to carry in the appendix position. You’ve made a deliberate choice to point your loaded handgun at multiple vital parts of your anatomy every time you holster or unholster your handgun (probably the most common time for ADs/NDs when handling handguns). Your life, your call, roll the dice all you want, but choosing to knowingly violate a safety rule to carry in a certain manner is just another deliberate safety violation (see above: arrogance, I know what I’m doing, complacency, etc.). It doesn’t matter how many times you get away with doing it, it only matters the one time you DON’T get away with it.

          Fatalism and firearms are a poor combination.

    • You nailed the exact emotions, thoughts and feelings I am having and trying not to feel guilty for having them.

    • + This.

      Had a boss one time who told me “If you’re not awake and alive going to work, you won’t be awake and alive going home.” I won’t forget that. It’s a bright sunny day until it isn’t. Trade y’all prayers for the rest of them, that they get to go home to their families. On top of it all, it has to be a horrible downer for a long-timer/short-timer to go down that way. That’s a huge hit.

      Weapons training in the military came with the heavy caveat of the 4 Safety Rules, we were told that, as long as we followed them, we could make all the mistakes we wanted (not that we were “allowed” to), and still get the chance to live to make others.

      Trade ya more prayers that we all get to learn more gently from ours and others mistakes.

  1. Is it just me, or do cops seem to commit wayyyyyyy too many negligent acts with their firearms in light of all the training/competency that they supposedly possess?

    • I would love to see how many injuries and deaths are caused annually by negligent discharge by those charged with protecting the general public.

    • Some of it is because they handle guns every day, while the vast majority of CCW holders don’t actually carry.

      And some of it, like the guy down south who shot himself in the leg while reholstering after playing with his gun in front of his co-workers at the beginning of his shift, and the Fresno incident at hand, are from cops playing with guns while standing around together talking or whatever. Most of the rest of us don’t like unholstering in public but for them it’s no big deal.

        • “Most of the rest of us don’t like unholstering in public but for them it’s no big deal.”

          Sounds like you two are in agreement then…

        • Button hit it right on the button. POTG don’t play with guns, we have too much respect for guns to do that.

          Far too many LEOs do play with guns, and their guns are always kept loaded.

    • Also, many police aren’t “people of the gun”, and don’t have an affinity for guns. It’s like computers: a lot of people use them for work, but some people really enjoy them and get naturally proficient on their own. Other people train well and pick it up easily. And then there are people who can do what they need to do to keep the job, but the learning isn’t deep seated.

      • Most cops I know are more “car people” than gun people. Riding around in a car with a gun, computer, radio, and partner does not make one an expert nor lover of any of the above.

    Unloading a Semi-Automatic Firearm

    Roger E. Temple- Sheepdog Firearm Training LLC [email protected]

    Jeff Cooper’s 4 Cardinal Rules of Gun Safety:

    1. “Treat every gun as if it is loaded.” Make sure you prove a firearm is unloaded and then still treat it as if it is loaded- even airsoft and plastic guns.
    2. “Don’t point the muzzle at anything you don’t intend to destroy.” Only point it in a safe direction.
    3. “Keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to fire.” Clint Smith says “On target- on trigger. Off target- off trigger.” The most effective safety on every firearm is your extended trigger finger along the frame.
    4. “Know your target and what’s beyond it.” Don’t shoot unless you know where your bullet will stop.

    The 5th Cardinal Rule of Gun Safety:

    Unloading a semi-automatic firearm that has a detachable magazine is not difficult but the sequence of tasks must be performed in the proper order. If the shooter mistakenly pulls the pistol slide or rifle bolt first, a new round from the magazine will be inserted into the chamber and the gun will still be loaded even after the magazine is removed. The shooter who does this mistakenly thinks that his firearm is now empty when in fact it is still loaded! This is a very dangerous situation and has resulted in many negligent discharges, injuries and even deaths.

    Some firearm manufacturers have come up with a mechanical solution for this problem which is called a “magazine disconnect safety”. It’s only available on some firearms: The Ruger SR9, Walther P22 and the Sig Mosquito are a few examples. Any firearm which has a magazine disconnect safety is designed not to fire if the magazine has been removed. Even if the gun was unloaded incorrectly and still has a round in the chamber, it won’t fire once the magazine is removed.

    This solution is fine on the guns that have a magazine disconnect safety but what about the millions of pistols and rifles out there that don’t have one? Or what happens if the magazine safety fails? A better solution that works every time is for shooters to learn a simple, 13 word rhyme that I have written. It is so simple that I have even taught it to an eight year old. Once she learned the rhyme, she was able to unload a semi-automatic pistol perfectly by herself every time (using snapcaps of course).

    How do you teach a child to remember the alphabet? You use the “ABC’s” song. How do you remember the color sequence on a deadly coral snake versus that on the non-lethal scarlet king snake? “Red on yellow, kills a fellow; red on black venom lack” These two examples use a common memory aid, rhyming, that makes the job of remembering information and proper sequences much easier. Using this technique, I have written a simple rhyme for properly unloading a semi-automatic firearm with a detachable magazine:

    “Drop the Mag then Pull the Slide. Take a Look and Feel Inside.”

    Did you notice that the first letter of each of the first four significant words are in alphabetical order? What is most important is if you mistakenly start the rhyme with “Pull the slide…” it no longer rhymes. You can only make a rhyme if you say the words and perform the actions in the proper order. Try it for yourself.
    Learn the rhyme and save a life!

    • Roger Temple: THAT is probably the wisest, most valuable post I have ever seen on this site – EVER!
      A friend of the family, fairly competent around guns, built 4 AR’s, owns 5 handguns, forgot that sequence to unload his Glock before cleaning – the takedown requires a trigger pull to remove the slide. Yep! X-Rays show a shattered femur, missed the femoral artery by an inch. He is a lucky man, and freely admits he only has himself to blame.

      • Why the did he not point it in a safe direction when he dropped the hammer? I always do that after I clear any firearm. It not cleared until you dry fire in a safe direction. (The only time I ever violate that rule is at a gun counter, you should ask before dry firing)

      I’m sure you won’t mind. I’ll be reciting this like a giddy schoolgirl at my shop every day!!!
      Thank you!

    • I like that and I will use that. My formerly anti-gun little sister just got her first pistol a few weeks ago, and I’ve been very strict about the way she has to operate and store it.

      Yes: formerly anti-gun. Funny what graduating college, getting a 9-to-5, and moving to the low-rent side of town can do to someone’s bleeding-heart social mores, innit?

    • Great information.

      A procedural step I was taught was to work the slide multiple times. If you’ve done the steps out of order, you’ll cycle and eject rounds through the gun, making your failure plain.

      I had a back and forth about this here with someone a while back. Yes, this is unnecessary if you’ve done the steps correctly. With something like this, there are multiple problems to be addressed. One is knowledge. People need to know the right thing to do. Another is performance. People need to do the right thing. Then there’s failure detection. You need to know if the right thing hasn’t happened. Your failure detection could be a hole where a hole doesn’t belong. Or it could be further upstream, with a bunch of unfired rounds rolling around the floor. I believe the latter is preferable.

  3. And this is why despite the valid arguments against them I always carry a gun (P938) with a manual safety. Because like the kid left in the hot car, things happen and smart people can do stupid things.

    • And because the manual safety is designed to be deactivated by people, who (as you said) can do stupid things, a manual safety does not in any way add to the safety of a device, if the person handling the device is doing so in an unsafe manner. It changes NOTHING.

      If the person is not operating/handling a firearm with safety in mind, then adding another manual/mechanical step is useless, and simply makes it more difficult to deliberately use the gun when you need it.

      The last three ADs/NDs I saw at the range were all accomplished with pistols that had manual safeties.

      • Yep. Nineshooter is right. What if someone is trusting their manual safety and mistakenly thinks it’s on when it’s really off (or vice versa). What if the manual safety fails. The point is your trusting a manual safety may cause you to neglect (or at least not properly and fully respect) the 4 rules.

    • If the safety device between your ears can’t cut it, then no form of mechanical safety will do you much good, either.

  4. I hate to kick a man when he’s down, but I wonder which part of the “special, elite training” that only LEOs can apparently receive overrides the basics about muzzle and trigger discipline?

    Sympathy for the late officer and his family, though; nobody deserves to suffer for someone else’s foolishness.

    • While I have sympathy for any human killed before their time, I have more sympathy for Chicago kids shot in drive-bys than one blue-liner “professional” shot by another blue-liner “professional”. Blue-liners aren’t as special as they think they are.

      • I don’t know what kind of logic train equates “nobody deserves to pay for someone else’s mistake with their own life” with “police deserve special consideration if harmed by a negligent discharge,” but there are definitely a few pennies sitting on the tracks.

  5. I am still waiting to hear the EXACT make and caliber of the gun involved–and of course we all know that cops are the only ones who are trained well enough and sufficiently responsible to have guns–especially in California!!!! Deplorable DMD

    • And what difference will THAT make? There is no functional handgun that someone, somewhere, hasn’t ADed/NDed. Making it about the gun is defective thinking; the kind of defective thinking that makes people believe that there are “safe guns” and “unsafe guns”. As I’ve heard various people say, accurately: “Is gun. Is not safe.”

      This kind of thinking is akin to “Don’t worry, it’s not loaded.”

      The person is what makes it safe, or unsafe.

  6. Sad….But, what does anyone think these folks would do if it happened within the citizenry…Outside of the “thin blue line.” How aggressive would that so called investigation be for J.Q public…Im sure a citizen would be immediately incarcerated, and thrown under the bus….

    • I am holding my breadth waiting for the manslaughter charges to be brought up against that unnamed detective, after he has his rest, of course…

      • The blue-liners would damn sure not show up for anyone else’s funeral, as will hundreds of them show up for this Sargeant’s funeral, all on taxpayer time and vehicles.

  7. “Regular readers will recognize the characteristically passive construction of that sentence. ‘The gun went off….’”

    That is not passive voice.

  8. If you lock back the slide and look inside, you will know whether it contains a magazine or a chambered cartridge.

  9. What happens when a group of friends sitting in a room talking about gun safety and one accidentally kills another? Do they get to be left alone and given time because of mental state? We all know how it works. He was pointing where it shouldn’t be pointed and pulled the trigger. Theres no secret to what happened in that room.

  10. Thanks for the rhyme. I’ll remember it and be teaching it to my wife – who is learning how to use a handgun now that we’ve finally found one that she can use with her severe arthritis.

  11. “Equal justice under law” is supposed to be the “law of the land”. If I had my way, a full investigation would be warranted, the same way any mere civilian is treated–no “paid vacation” or other “special” consideration. Yes, I do feel sorry for the officer’s family…

  12. Regardless of anything else, Rule #2 was violated by someone who is presumed to have been trained. Once again, it is the professionals who violate the rules. That is why professional electricians are more likely to get shocked or electrocuted than amateurs. We’re scared of electricity; the pros are not. We’re scared of guns, so we’re really (most of us anyway) very, very careful; the pros are not.

    Anyone want to bet the gun that “went off” is a Glock?

    • Doesn’t matter if it was a Glock, or not. If a person can fire a handgun deliberately, they can fire it negligently. There are no “unsafe guns”, only people handling guns in an unsafe manner.

      These officers weren’t at a range, they were in an office. Think about that: handling loaded firearms, in an office environment. As nothing there needed to be shot, there was no reason that the gun in question couldn’t have been unloaded, greatly reducing the chance of an unintended firing. Many are assuming that the handgun was pointed directly at the person who died, but it could well have been a ricochet off a hard surface like a heavy conference table or concrete floor, so maybe rule #1 WAS being followed, albeit imperfectly.

      There are many unknowns here, but it’s almost certain that there was no need to be handling loaded handguns in an office environment. I’d say that was the first critical mistake, and the one that, if avoided, could have stopped this sad chain of events before it progressed to tragedy.

  13. Thanks for the rhyme. I’m teaching my wife handgun safety now that we’ve found one that she can use in spite of her severe arthritis. (Walther PPQ in the 22LR, the only one we’ve found that she can pull back the slide.)

    • Try a Sig 238 in .380. Same physical size and just as easy to pull the slide. At least with a .380, there’s a chance of self-defense. But it is expensive.

      • Mum can barely, with proper technique, work the slide on her LCP. Surprisingly, she cannot with my P938. Fortunately, your P238 has a weaker spring than my P938, possibly weaker than a LCP.

        That said, anybody can cock a revolver. And cylinders are easier to load than magazines.

  14. As a youngster in Vietnam we had just returned from a night patrol and were clearing our weapons back at base. I was tired and going through the motions and forgot to drop the magazine on my M-16. Racked the bolt, pulled the trigger and shit my pants! Fortunately, I was following the protocol of pointing the muzzle down and into a pile of dirt we used when clearing weapons. Needless to say it made a lasting impression on me and I thank God that my stupidity that night only caused potential heart failure to me and those around me.

    PS Love the rhyme

  15. If you popped your friend what kind of treatment to would you get? I doubt they would give you a few days to compose yourself, they would go for a statement ASAP.

    • That’s the difference between gathering evidence for conviction and not wanting to have to make an arrest.

  16. California is home to the onerous Handgun Drop Safety Certification. A handgun must be submitted for testing(3 actually) and $5,000 to drop these guns from various heights and angles to make sure they don’t discharge. If they do, they cannot be allowed for sale.
    Any variation of a handgun means additional guns/fees/testing. Once a gun is passed then you need to pay an additional, yearly fee to keep it on the safe roster.
    You want a different sight, finish or barrel length? Submit to the .gov or get outta the state.

    Notable exceptions the the Handgun drop test are; government agencies need not buy ‘approved’ guns and the odd exemption for single action revolvers. The single actions are exempt because they have been around for 150 hears and never go off when dropped;)
    It’s entirely possible that this deputy was using a non roster firearm that allowed him to put his fellow officers in harms way. Maybe they can sue somebody for allowing use of an unsafe gun.

    Yeah, just a smidge of satire in my post.

    Condolences to the family of the deceased.

  17. “Mims said the detective whose gun went off has not been interviewed, nor had the sheriff spoken to him, “because of his mental state,” she said. “We’re giving him the time he needs,” said Mims, who declined to identify the detective by name. “We’re taking care of him.”

    Never thought of cops as special snowflakes before. But, since the non-cop gun owner does not get such consideration, there can be no other conclusion. Lump ’em in with all the wimpy, whinny mush brains who believe the world should be structured for them alone.

    The distraught family is an entirely different matter. They didn’t deserve this.

    • Police that are members of a union typically receive three days to calm down. They are then interviewed with a union-paid attorney at their side.

      • Because the average non-cop gun owner is made of sterner stuff, that calm-down period is not needed. POTG can take on the police and DAs without breaking a sweat. Cops apparently melt in the heat of interrogation.

  18. Once again I will make the comparison to our anesthesia safety foundation
    We have been working hard to make anesthesia safer
    We have a highly trained work force of professionals who get continuing education
    We still have violations of the most basic safety protocols.
    I cannot stand people who talk about “safety between your ears”
    We cannot get motivated professionals to always follow safety protocols
    We have turned to engineering solutions to help prevent human error
    Glock did the world a disservice when they got people used to pulling the trigger to field strip a gun
    There are striker fired guns that do not require a trigger pull to take apart
    Also, grip safeties and thumb safeties are a great idea
    A thumb safety might have prevented that n d
    We gun owners should be demanding more safety interlocks from manufacturers that do not slow down bringing the gun into action
    There is a lot that could be done from an engineering design standpoint to make firearms truly safer

  19. What a travesty. The detective should be terminated. I don’t have all the details, but it looks like the detective should be arrested for manslaughter. Or perhaps murder. Somebody could be sleeping with somebody else’s wife, perhaps, but that’s just completely unsubstantiated speculation.

    I’m using this as an a training bulletin. Too many cops are too complacent with firearms. I really hate incidents like this and I’m doing whatever I can to prevent them.

    • Ah yes, Accur has again asserted that he is the only cop out there that has risen above the blue morass. Whatever. Tell us again how much money you donate to politicians.

  20. Always curious how many of these incidents are actual accidents. Awhile back, a fed agent came unhinged over a love triangle and shot up a field office. If you caught another cop messing with your wife, stepping on your promotion, or threatening to drop dirt on you, what better way to zap them and get away with it than blame “the gun going off?”

  21. It is not true that “the gun accidently shot” the officer. Guns do not do anything without HUMAN intervention.
    The statement should read, as it would if the shooter were a m-e-r-e civilian, “Shooter negligently pulls trigger and shoots victim at which he had negligently pointed the firearm”. Negligence TWICE.

  22. Reminds me of the time my brother was cleaning his pistol and didn’t clear the weapon first. He was in the basement and the round bounced around the concrete walls without harm. Fortunately for him none of his multiple kids were there at the time. His wife thought he committed suicide. My dad was rolling in his grave at the carelessness(he taught all of us well).

  23. I had a Negligent Discharge a week ago today at a Gun Range. I took full responsibility for it. Never once claimed it was an accident. For certain reasons which are too involved to discuss at length here, I was in a situation where I was rushed and involved in a whole lot of commotion which ended up in me not clearing one of the several guns I had with me even though the magazine was out.
    I ended up pulling the trigger whilst the gun was pointed at the floor where the bullet imbedded itself in the wood. One person in my party said “shit happens.” I said no… “shit does not happen. When shit happens, people can get killed!” Regardless I took full responsibility, I was angry at myself for not clearing the weapon and for allowing the hurriedness and commotion to affect my safe handling. Yet I was overwhelmingly relieved no one was hurt or worse. I violated two of the safety rules: Guns are always loaded and Never put your finger on the trigger until you are on target and ready to fire. You might even throw the third one in if you’re so inclined. Never point the gun at something you’re not willing to destroy vis a vis the floor. But since it was a wooden floor it might not count… Lol. In any event I filled out the store’s incident report and am now 86’d from the business for life. That’s a punishment I can live with. What could’ve happened I would not have been very pleased to live with. One thing I know is that this will never happen again. I won’t violate those rules again and won’t let other people influence my actions when it comes to gun safety.

  24. Oh, and I forgot to add it was indeed complacency that caused my negligence. No such thing as an accidental discharge.

    • In common parlance, “accidental” is generally accepted as “unintended”. “Negligent” generally implies evil irresponsibility. Can we all agree that “unintended” is a reasonable descriptor? Can we let the uninformed use “accidental” in place of “unintentional”. Can we continue to use “negligent” to describe “unintentional”/”irresponsible” among POTG? There are so many more distinctions between descriptors of guns and gun use that should take priority.

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