In 2018, the family of a Burlington, Iowa woman fatally shot by a police officer was awarded $2 million in a wrongful death settlement. The accidental shooting sent shock waves through the community where many struggled to understand what the victim’s mother characterized as “the unreasonable, unnecessary and reckless” manner in which the officer fired his gun.
According to a recent investigative article in The Des Moines Register, accidental shootings by law enforcement officers happen more often than one might suspect. In agencies large and small, at all levels, the reckless firing of weapons has caused hundreds of injuries to officers, suspects, and bystanders – some resulting in death.
Law enforcement agencies have different terms for these officer involved shootings – accidental, negligent or unintentional – but many believe accidental shootings point to a larger problem of inadequate training to handle guns proficiently, especially in high intensity situations.
According to the executive director of the Force Science Institute, which provides research and training to law enforcement agencies, few officers possess the necessary “street training” to develop skills and decision making ability needed to deal with real time situations.
At best, officers are thought to be the most proficient at handling a firearm immediately following graduation from a police academy: after that, many must only demonstrate minimal proficiency once or twice a year which might be the only time they draw and fire a gun.
The details are sketchy on the actual number of accidental police shootings nationwide – apparently no one is keeping track. However, scattered FOIA requests and media coverage hint at a worrisome record of guns going off while cleaning, as a result of a trip or fall, or because of involuntary reflex – any of which can lead to unintended injuries or tragic consequences.
Although, countless law enforcement officers safely perform their duties every day, and are unquestionably assets to their communities, even one accidental shooting death is one too many. When someone is injured or killed because of the unlawful or negligent act of another, the injured party may pursue a personal injury claim, or, in the event of a fatality, the surviving family members may claim compensation through a wrongful death lawsuit. If you or a family member has been injured due to another’s negligence, contact the Davenport Iowa personal injury and wrongful death lawyers of McDonald, Woodward & Carlson PC at 563-355-6478.