I’ve had occasion before to write about the Four Rules of firearms safety. If you adhere to these four rules, you will never, repeat, never injure or kill another living being by ‘accident’ or negligence with a firearm.
The Four Rules, as codified by the late, great Col. Jeff Cooper, are:
1. All firearms are always loaded. In other words, never assume that a firearm is unloaded until you’ve personally verified that fact; and if it passes out of your hands for even an instant, re-check it the moment you get it back. Never assume that because it was safe once, it’s still safe.
2. Never point the muzzle of a firearm at anything you are not willing to destroy. This means what it says. If you value it, don’t point the gun at it. Period.
3. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target. Again, this means what it says. Your finger stays OFF the trigger until your sights are ON what you want to shoot. If your sights come off target, your finger simultaneously comes off the trigger. No exceptions.
4. Be sure of your target and what is beyond it. Don’t shoot at a noise, or a shape that you can’t identify; and don’t shoot at a ‘presumed’ threat unless and until you’re sure that the threat is real. Remember, too, that your bullet can miss your target, or pass right through it, and hit something – or someone – further away. You’re responsible for any harm caused by your shot.
Horrifyingly often, someone forgets to apply one or more of these four simple rules . . . and tragedy results. It happened yesterday in Lebanon, TN.
“In looking at all the cameras, all the policies were followed,” Weeks [Lebanon’s public safety commissioner] said. “It was just the perfect storm of a nightmare.”
The chase that led to Thompson’s death started shortly before 3 a.m. Thompson was driving on the wrong side of the road and nearly hit McKinley’s patrol car near an intersection just east of Lebanon’s public square, Weeks said.
After both drivers slammed on their brakes, he said, Thompson backed up and fled down Carthage Highway. McKinley chased him. About three miles outside of Lebanon, Weeks said, Thompson drove off a highway embankment.
Weeks said McKinley went down the embankment to try to get Thompson out of the car. McDannald, who had joined the chase, stayed up on the road to cover him.
As McKinley walked toward the car with his gun drawn, Weeks said, McKinley slipped on some loose rocks. As McKinley tried to steady himself, he accidentally fired his gun into the air.
McDannald saw the officer’s gun go off. Thinking that Thompson was shooting, Weeks said, McDannald opened fire and killed Thompson.
Weeks said that, to his knowledge, Thompson was unarmed.
“It’s a terrible thing,” Weeks said. “It’s traumatic for the family. It’s traumatic for the officers.”
There’s more at the link.
Sorry, Mr. Weeks, but you’re wrong. Officer McKinley had his finger on the trigger when he shouldn’t have. He violated Rule 3: therefore, his shot wasn’t accidental – it was the result of negligence. Furthermore, Officer MacDannald’s reaction to the shot, while understandable, was also negligent, in that he wasn’t sure of what was going on before he exercised lethal force. He violated Rule 4, in that he could not have been sure that his target needed shooting. If he’d been a civilian, you can bet your boots that he’d be in jail tonight, charged with manslaughter at the very least, if not murder in the second degree. However, Officer MacDannald’s walking around a free man. What does that say about the local District Attorney’s attitude towards the rights of citizens vs. those of cops?
If Mr. Weeks genuinely believes that ‘all policies were followed’ in this case, he needs to urgently re-examine his district’s law enforcement policies, procedures and standards. They’re clearly not up to scratch. A young man is dead, who need not have died. To those who say that cops can’t afford to take chances in such situations – what chances? The deceased wasn’t armed. To judge by the report, he didn’t make any threats, either verbal or by gesture, to the approaching officers. There was no reason to shoot him . . . but he’s dead.
I’m no cop-basher. I’ve been a sworn law enforcement officer myself, and count many cops among my friends. However, the facts in this case appear relatively straightforward . . . and they don’t paint a pretty picture of the competence of the officers concerned, or the training provided to them by their department.