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Stress does funny things to people. You can run faster, jump higher, maybe even lift a car off a kid. Some people say things seem to slow down and it’s easier to process what’s going on. Not all of the things stress can do to you are good, though. For example, there’s that whole red mist thing. Tunnel vision, too. As a New York transit cop found out Tuesday night, the negative side effects of stress can also include involuntary muscular contractions . . .

We don’t mean one of those “if it persists for four hours call your doctor” things, either. We’re talking about trigger fingers. A couple of LEOs had just stopped Richard Pearson who’d taken off after committing a petty theft. We’ll let take it from there once they’d caught up with him:

“Police, don’t move. Get down,” the officers told Pearson.

Pearson — who earlier allegedly tried to snatch a cell phone from a woman nearby — tossed the wad of stolen cash and dropped facedown on the sidewalk, cops said.

But Pearson then tucked his hands under his body as the officers tried to cuff him.

That’s when one of the coppers moved to holster his gun while trying to control Pearson with the other.

But the Sig Sauer 9-mm. pistol went off, firing one round into Pearson’s right calf, cops and witnesses said.

“It happened like an accident, he tried to put the gun back and bang — it went off,” one witness said.

“I thought my finger was off the trigger,” the cop allegedly said after the accidental discharge.

And you know what? He may very well have had his finger off the trigger. Only not far enough.

Think it can’t happen to you? Greg Ellifritz posted a recent piece at on finger positioning and hand clenches that probably goes a long way toward explaining what happened to the hapless transit cop.

Many shooters hold their fingers this way (along the outside of the trigger guard) when not firing.  They believe that since the finger is not on the trigger, an accidental discharge won’t occur.  In general, they are correct.  But most shooters don’t know that certain situations can cause an involuntary hand clenching.  The tightening of the hand causes a contraction of all of the fingers with a force up to 30 lbs. (the Glock trigger pull weight is around 6 lbs.) and cannot be consciously controlled.

So the transit cop was probably right. He likely did have his finger off the SIG’s bangswitch. Until, that is, the perp resisted and he was forced to use his off hand to grab the dood and help his partner restrain him. When his gun hand naturally clenched, too, (Big Apple twelve pound trigger or not), well, you know.

To avoid this, Ellifritz points out that a trigger digit needs to be held up higher, lying along the side of the pistol’s frame. His Ayoob-ness agrees, but likes to see the finger curled rather then lying flat on the slide. (see pics at the Ellifritz link).  Either technique probably would have avoided the hole suddenly appearing in Richard Pearson’s calf. All that takes training and practice, though, to develop the muscle memory to do it consistently and instinctively.

But to coin a phrase, it is what it is. While he can cite his central nervous system as an accomplice in the negligent discharge, the transit cop did fire his gun and Pearson will be limping his way to Rikers Island once he’s out of the hospital. All of which means he’s our IGOTD this lovely morning. And we hope that when he ultimately reads about the honor that’s been bestowed upon him, he clicks through and checks out Ellifitz’s words of wisdom.


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  1. “Police, don’t move. Get down.”

    Gotta love those conflicting orders from guys who will shoot you if you don’t comply.

  2. We must pass a law requiring the police to be restricted to carrying double-action only revolvers (hammers de-horned) with about eleven pound triggers. No more semi-autos with light trigger pulls. If it can save but one innocent life…

    • Well in NYC they have 12lb triggers on their pistols, so your comment is irrellavent. Plus it is universally considered that 4.5-5lbs is sufficients for duty an carry use. Any more makes it more difficult to shoot and make the police less accurate. It’s not a coincidence that NYC cops are notorious for their lack of accuracy.

    • yeah he will. an azzhole with money is still an azzhole. he was probably stealing to feed a drug habit and we know what wise investments druggies make. and to the other issue here “bad cop. no donut.” actually i understand this mishap a lot better than the later being shot in her own backyard by the sd sheriffs dept.

      • Do you think this shooting is possibly a result of the cop having recently eaten at a donut shop and suffering from a sugar-induced high? If so then we must ban cops from eating donuts while on duty.

      • he was probably stealing to feed a drug habit and we know what wise investments druggies make.

        Just a FYI, but chances are your investment broker is a coke head, pot head or alcoholic.

  3. I think the officer only deserves an honorable mention. This was all stress related cojoined with common practice.

  4. Stuff happens is stressful situations. Looks bad for the cop, but not really sorry for the perp in this instance (hopefully he will learn not to steal from others).

  5. I’m waiting for a certain firearms instructor to comment on how it’s fine to keep your finger within the trigger guard, or even on the trigger when dealing with a suspect.

    • Much as I often disagree with him, in all fairness, Mas Ayoob doesn’t advocate placing your finger inside the trigger guard. Instead he teaches students to hook their partially curled trigger fingers on the outside edge of the guard.

      (Like when I hook my fingernail on the edge of my own trigger guard when I’m at, ‘low ready’ or taking a sight picture on the target.)

      The rest of the time I keep my trigger finger out straight and along THE TOP of the trigger guard. This is a pistol handling technique that has served me well for many years BEFORE Mas Ayoob finally popularized it. Furthermore, I only use this technique in anticipation of immediately firing the pistol. As long as you DO NOT DO THIS ON THE DRAW, you should be fine.

      If you know what you’re supposed to be doing with a pistol AND HAVE THE GUN-HANDLING HABITS TO MATCH this, ‘hooked trigger finger technique’ is safe and works well. If, however, you’re a new or lightly experienced pistolero, then, maybe not. (And, I’m no Ayoob fan – OK!)

  6. And thats why LE is supposed to be trained never go hands on with a weapon in hand. Sounds like 2 officers on scene, one should provide cover and the other go hands on. Simple, or so one would think.

  7. Maybe the cop should have shot the guy in the trigger finger to stop the threat. Makes ad Mich sense as shooting him in the leg or using rubber bullets. And the guy did not die for shoplifting. He died for armed robbery, threatening an officer, and endangering the lives of every person in the area. He racked up more strikes than the mariners pitching staff.

  8. One of the things I like about the 1911 design is that it has a thumb safety which is very easy to engage or disengage as needed. With it engaged, there is essentially no chance that it will fire. With most striker fired pistols, anything that pulls the trigger fires the gun. It doesn’t even have to be your finger. Just getting some fabric caught in the trigger guard while reholstering can be sufficient.

  9. Considering the results of the NYC police shooting 9 bystanders in Manhatten, I’d give this officer a medal, one accidental shot and they still hit the bad guy and no one else. Better results than the typical NYC police shooting.

  10. It’s amazing that you can have an accidental discharge with the reported 12lb trigger pull required for NYPD sidearms.

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