June 14th, 2024

Firearm discharge not criminal, ASIRT concludes

By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman - Lethbridge Herald on January 18, 2023.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDapulido@lethbridgeherald.com

An incident involving the accidental discharge of a firearm by an LPS officer which resulted in injury has been deemed non-criminal.

In the matter of an accidental discharge involving Lethbridge Police Service on Sept. 22, 2020, the decision of the assistant executive director of the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT), Matthew Block, has been released.

On Sept. 22, 2020, pursuant to Sec. 46.1 of the Police Act, ASIRT was directed to investigate a discharge from a firearm causing injury at a training range in Lethbridge.

The ASIRT report notes that in 2020, LPS moved from using one make of handgun as the service weapon for all officers to another. The new handgun had several important differences, which required new processes for safe use.

As part of this transition to the new handguns, LPS had all officers undergo training. This training included an initial mandatory session for all officers prior to using the new handgun, and then additional sessions that were not mandatory.

The report states the incident happened on one of these non-mandatory sessions held on Sept. 22, 2020 at the LPS outdoor range facility. The officers in attendance included the accused officer, the victim, and two firearms instructors.

The report also states that the officers first trained outdoors in the range. At the end of this time, the instructors showed the officers how to disassemble the firearm safely. This included pulling the trigger to remove the slide, which was one of the important differences between this firearm and the last firearm LPS used. Disassembly was done outside in the range in case of accidental discharge.

The report explains that the demonstrated procedure also included a triple check of the chamber to ensure that the firearm was not loaded.

The officers then went indoors to learn how to clean and oil the new firearms properly. The accused officer cleaned and oiled his firearm, and then reassembled it. He then realized that he had not oiled part of the firearm and began to disassemble it again. When he pulled the trigger, as required to remove the slide, the firearm discharged a bullet that was in the chamber.

The victim was hit in the leg by an object, and he began to bleed. The other officers immediately began to provide aid to the victim. His injury was serious and required a tourniquet. He was rushed to the hospital, where he stayed overnight.

The report states that based on the evidence at the scene, it appears that the discharge ricocheted off a table leg and then went into a wall. The accused officer’s firearm would have therefore been pointed down, and not directly at the victim.

It also states that medical evidence showed a small metal fragment in the victim’s leg. This was what had hit the victim, and it was from either the table leg or the shell casing.

The report states that there was no evidence of any animus between the officer and the victim, and no evidence of any intentional targeting. After the incident, the officer apologized to the victim repeatedly.

“During that training, it appears that the officer failed to follow the appropriate safety measures and accidentally discharged his firearm, and the victim was injured. While this was serious and had real consequences for the victim, it was not criminal,” concluded Block.

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