South African Attorney Killed When Loaded Evidence Gun Fires in Courtroom

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The four rules of gun safety are much like the laws of economics. They are in full force everywhere and they can’t be repealed, no matter how much some would like to try. Those who would flout or ignore them do so at their own peril.

According to a Newsweek (remember them?) report, a criminal trial was under way in the town of Umzimkhulu, South Africa, a little burg southwest of Durban. The trial concerned an assault and robbery case against five men that allegedly took place in 2014. The wheels of justice grind slowly in S.A.

As Newsweek describes it . . .

Addelaid Ferreira-Watt, a prominent South African attorney, was killed after a shotgun that had been entered as evidence in a robbery trial was accidentally dropped and fired into her leg.

News24 reported that the gun was being held by a police officer in Umzimkhulu Regional Court when it slipped from his hands and hit the floor. The shotgun released a shell into Ferreira-Watt’s left hip. She was rushed to the hospital but doctors could not save her life.

How could such a thing have happened? Had a loaded shotgun really been held in an evidence room somewhere for five years? No.

The shotgun belonged to the victims, and it was retrieved by police from the suspects and returned to their possession, as they needed it for home defense. On Monday the couple returned it to the police so it could be submitted as evidence in the trial.

When the victims handed the shotgun over to the police, the officer who received it didn’t do the most basic thing you should do every time someone hands you a firearm. They didn’t check it to make sure it was clear.

It’s probably a mistake a lot of us have made. It’s easy to assume a gun is safe when someone hands one to you, or to just forget to do the check. That’s a slip-up that can ruin your entire day.

The Four Rules of Gun Safety

 

 

comments

  1. Maybe the NRA can hook them up with an “Eddie Eagle program….”

    1. avatar I Haz A Question says:

      Not sure if Eddie is employed anymore, seeing that WLP somehow finaggled a 57% raise last year, for a total compensation package exceeding $2 million. And that’s only for 2018. I can only imagine what ‘Lil Wayne has managed to convince the Board to approve for this current year, or next.

      1. avatar Reason says:

        Yep NRA mortgaging everything, borrowing from ILA and education funds to stay afloat. Membership dues and donations are down, legal fees exploding and LaPierre gets his hand picked cronies to give him a 57% pay increase. Tell me again how the NRA can’t do without his “Leadership”
        With the crap they have declined to fight and in some instances supported behind closed doors and even in public Bloomberg would not have done much worse for gun owners.

  2. avatar NORDNEG says:

    Ooop’s,!

  3. avatar ROBERT Powell says:

    like the old saying no matter what language, you can fix broken but you can not fix stupid..

    1. avatar Gun Smoker says:

      …a saying you prove day in and day out.

      1. avatar n64456 says:

        Shut up, rapist…

  4. avatar James W Crawford says:

    This just confirms that only the police are competent to be trusted with firearms.
    However; the victim was an attorney so who gives a shit.

    1. avatar rt66paul says:

      you beat me to it

  5. avatar Geoff "Run, Bloomie, run!" PR says:

    What a relief, it was only a lawyer.

    *snicker* 😉

    (That’s kinda mean of me, considering what a lawyer did for me recently…)

    1. avatar jwm says:

      The lawyer did nothing for you. He did it for your money.

      1. avatar Geoff "Run, Bloomie, run!" PR says:

        “The lawyer did nothing for you. He did it for your money.”

        Ordinarily, I would whole-hardheartedly agree with you, but not in that particular case. There was genuine family personal interest involved there. If I laid out the specific details (and I don’t care to publicly) you would agree. It’s looking like it’s even better than I realized, after today’s visit to the eye doctor. Thanks to his (the lawyer’s) work, I can afford to pay cash for the surgery for a new pair of prescription corneas, to replace my cataract-clouded ones I was diagnosed with this morning. Clear vision and no more eyeglasses sounds good to this boy. If that woman hadn’t hit me last year, I’d be seriously sweating paying for new eyes…

        1. avatar Ralph says:

          I had cataract surgeries on both eyes about 20 years ago. Best thing I ever did. A friend just got both eyes done. She went from legally blind to 20/20 corrected. Best of luck with yours.

  6. avatar FB says:

    This shouldn’t read as
    “South African Attorney Killed When Loaded Evidence Gun Fires in Courtroom”.

    This should read as:
    “South African Attorney Killed When someone with a Loaded Evidence Gun doesn’t follow the basic firearm rules and Fires the gun in Courtroom.”

    1. avatar Red in CO says:

      I had a similar thought. Since when does TTAG follow the media’s playbook and refer to NDs, especially fatal ones, in the passive voice? She wasn’t killed when a “gun unexpectedly fired” she was killed when “a dumbass did something stupid and caused an ND”

      1. avatar Victoria Illinois says:

        Yup. A college degree doesn’t equal smarts. (The computer should have a non “=” sign.)

        1. avatar California Richard says:

          I don’t know if the unsafe cop had a college degree or not, but I can say for certain that the lawyer’s college degree didn’t make her bullet proof.

        2. avatar I Haz A Question says:

          It does.

        3. avatar DesertDave says:

          Dang beat me to it!

      2. avatar Matt Williams says:

        “gun unexpectedly fired” is active voice.

  7. avatar Red in CO says:

    Given the atrocious level of corruption in South Africa I think the most surprising thing here is that the authorities actually returned the weapon to its rightful owners until such time as it was needed for trial! Good for them, wish we had that here….

  8. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

    Red, just so you know. Took pics of evidence, including firearms, for the case file and returned property to the rightful owner. The exception being homicide and serious violent felonies. Thank the defense attorneys for that. Any severance in the chain of custody gave those asswipes another reason to stick a toothpick into the block of granite that was the case.

    1. avatar Defens says:

      That surprised me as well. How could you collect evidence under a strict chain of custody and then release that same evidence into uncontrolled conditions? Someone could easily tamper with the firing pin, plug the barrel, or perhaps load the shotgun.

  9. avatar Jordan says:

    Incompetence (particularly government incompetence) knows no race, creed, color, or nationality.

  10. avatar Hannibal says:

    As “mistakes” go, that one should end a career for the person that did it. But maybe it’s accepted over there that guns kill people. Arrest the gun!

  11. avatar Timothy Toroian says:

    Well, what the heck, a country that wants emulate Zimbabwe and throw all the white farmers out?

    1. avatar Southern Cross says:

      Socialist Justice. They are willing for people to starve and the country to burn just so they can punish people for what their ancestors did.

      1. avatar Hannibal says:

        While I’m sure the generational argument is used I think it’s a simpler issue under all of it- poor people wanting to take assets from rich people and using an excuse.

  12. avatar Nanashi says:

    I’ve heard jury duty stories where the jury was given the firearm allegedly used, magazine, and ammo. There was only extremely trivial defenses to stop the jury from combining them.

    1. avatar Ing says:

      Jury nullification… 🙂

      1. avatar I Haz A Question says:

        Yup.

        ****
        John Jay, 1st Chief Supreme Court Justice (1786) : “The jury has the right to judge both the law and the facts in controversy….”

        Samuel Chase, Supreme Court Justice (1796) : “The jury has the right to determine both the law and the facts…”

        Oliver Wendel Holmes, Supre Court Justice (1902) : “The jury has the power to bring in a verdict in the teeth of both law and fact…”

        Harlan F. Stone, Chief Supreme Court Justice (1941) : “The law itself is on trial quite as much as the cause which is to be decided…”

        U.D. vs Dougherty, (1972) : “The pages of history shine on instances of the jury’s exercise of it’s prerogative to disregard instructions of the judge…”

        Marbury vs Madison (1803) : “All laws which are repugnant to the Constitution are null and void.”

        Miranda vs Arizona (1966) : “Where rights secured by the Constitution are involved, there can be no rule making or legislation which would abrogate them.”

  13. avatar Mort says:

    Here goes, continuing my own “personal crusade….”

    #5. If you aren’t sure about what the controls on a particular firearm do, DON’T GUESS. Ask someone who you are sure knows the gun, or look it up to make sure. The “manual of arms” for countless firearms is very different, and you can never assume that the controls will do what you think they will do, if you don’t know for certain.

    Just the way I always teach it 😀 Be safe.

    Mort (Actual/AZ)

    1. avatar LarryinTX says:

      Trigger causes bang, do not touch. Other buttons, OK, look for what opens it up to remove bullets while pointed away from everything breakable/killable. Pretty universal.

  14. avatar Chris T in KY says:

    wow. very sad.

  15. avatar Joe nobody says:

    If “every gun is always loaded” then it is impossible to field strip any gun, because the first step is to unload it.

    A more appropriate wording for rule number one would be “every gun is loaded until you see that it isnt with your own eyes.”

  16. avatar "keep yur beaks off my road kill",possum says:

    A lawyer got shot in court, well thats a step in the right direction.

    1. avatar Southern Cross says:

      I saw this event on the online news sites yesterday and immediately thought “The Four Rules. How many were broken?”

  17. avatar Sam Hill says:

    Rules are made to be broken. That’s what attorneys are for.

    1. avatar LarryinTX says:

      For what? A backstop?

      1. avatar Sam Hill says:

        Works well for me!

  18. avatar Buffoon says:

    I need to know what James Campbell thinks about this issue!!!

  19. avatar Muhmawser says:

    “The four rules of gun safety are much like the laws of economics. They are in full force everywhere and they can’t be repealed, no matter how much some would like to try. Those who would flout or ignore them do so at their own peril”

    It should have said “laws of physics”. The laws of economics are much more theoretical and flexible than the laws of physics. Physics is a cruel mistress that truly treats everyone the same without exception.

  20. avatar Hoyden says:

    I’d like the Police to return my Hookers and Blow until I’m brought to trial. I need ’em cause there are addictions to feed and there are mouths to pay. Surely, I’ll return them before trial.

  21. avatar Anymouse says:

    I don’t understand even having the shotgun in the court room. The chain of custody was broken, and it proves nothing. Any ballistic tests would have been done prior. What’s to say that it’s the same shotgun, or parts haven’t been swapped out? There’s a reason cops collect evidence and stick it in a secure room until trial. Photos would be enough to prove the shotgun existed at the time of the crime.

  22. avatar Blue says:

    “It’s probably a mistake a lot of us have made.”

    Only idiots who shouldn’t be allowed to have BB guns.

    Everyone in America isn’t just plain stupid.

    1. avatar Cloudbuster says:

      The only time I have mistaken the condition of a gun was in the opposite direction — I assumed it had a round chambered when it did not. Got a click when I wanted a bang. You can imagine emergency situations where that would be bad, fortunately this wasn’t one of those.

      I always keep a round chambered in my carry guns, but for some reason had forgotten to chamber a round after the last cleaning. Probably got distracted just as I finished up. I’ve gotten more in the habit of double-checking — visual check or loaded-chamber indicator — since then.

      I never, ever act as if a gun isn’t loaded without personally checking it.

  23. Allowing someone to take the evidence home should result in an automatic mistrial.

  24. avatar Alan says:

    How did anyone so obviously lacking basic common sense ever become a police officer seems an unasked question.

  25. avatar Chuck says:

    The 4 rules (I prefer 3, simply because #4 is just a logical conclusion of rule #2), need to drilled, until they are a matter of automatic habit. Obviously, this incident illustrates that this didn’t occur at any level, from the lawful owner on. Shows an immediate need for procedural changes in South Africa.

  26. avatar Steve says:

    Not much surprise with post-Apartheid cops in S.A. Corrupt, ignorant and poorly trained. Most Afrikaners are better than average with guns. The rest, including the cop in this courtroom tragedy? Not so much.

  27. avatar Tec's Dad says:

    The whole idea that a gun killed someone is preposterous! A person handled the firearm that was left loaded, that person because of their ignorance shot another person, ignorance of the law is no excuse…. You never aim a firearm at anything you do not wish to destroy…

  28. avatar AC says:

    How many times have we heard someone say after a tragic event in which a gun was unintentionally fired; “I didn’t mean for that to happen…I thought the gun was unloaded”.

    I think that what many people fail to understand with regards to gun safety is that it is NOT enough to know the four rules of gun safety… you must commit to ALWAYS following them until it becomes an automatic habit. I can be home alone working on a gun (that I have personally unloaded) when there is a knock at the door or a phone call that interrupts me for just a couple minutes, and when I return to resume what I was doing and pick up that gun the first thing I do is to check and make sure that the gun is clear. Now, with being home alone and only having been pulled away for just two minutes one could argue that it is not really necessary for me to recheck the gun… And although we could all agree that this gun would be just as clear and safe as when I set it down just two minutes ago, I would argue that it is VERY necessary for me to take the two seconds to recheck and clear the gun in order to maintain the habit of ALWAYS knowing the condition of every weapon I touch. And I further believe that this is something everyone should be taught regardless of whether or not they ever intend to own or handle a gun. Just think about it, if you never intended to own or drive an automobile would it still not be important for you to learn some basic rules of road safety such as what the different traffic light colors mean as well as to always look both ways before crossing the street and to only cross at the intersections and maybe other things such as to not get in a car driven by someone who is clearly impaired and under the influence of intoxicants. Because we see cars everyday and everywhere we generally all pick up this knowledge of how to be safe around automobiles. But guns too are all around us and so we should also know how to identify proper gun safe handling and to be able to recognize when someone is not being safe in handling a gun so that we can either stop it or get the hell away from the dangerous situation before we become an unintentional victim. This by the way (the mandatory teaching of gun safety to everyone starting at the grade school level) would be the only “sensible gun legislation” that I could support… All other existing anti-gun laws should be stricken from the books as they were all “unlawfully” enacted without proper adherence to the Supreme Law of the Land.

  29. avatar Robert Messmer says:

    The cop did not fire the shotgun, according to the article. All he did was to drop it. That does not go to show stupidity, incompetence, or lack of training. I would be willing to bet that there was a different cop that was responsible for collecting the shotgun for trial, so it was not even his fault that the gun was still loaded.

  30. avatar BluesMike says:

    “It’s probably a mistake a lot of us have made. It’s easy to assume a gun is safe when someone hands one to you, or to just forget to do the check.”

    Not once, ever!

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