Bad: Shooting Left Sergeant Shaken. New details emerge on training accident. (NH)
As reported by Law Officer.com:
Shooting Left Sergeant Shaken
New details emerge on training accident
* Annmarie Timmins
* Concord Monitor (New Hampshire)
* 2009 Jan 13
CONCORD, N.H. -- The state attorney general's office issued a final report yesterday reaffirming its conclusion that a Concord police sergeant broke no laws when he accidentally shot and wounded another officer during a training session in May.
But the report does reveal new details about how shaken the sergeant was immediately after the shooting. Sgt. Steven Smagula turned pale and told Officer Joshua Levasseur, the person he shot, that this was "the worst day of his life," according to the report. Smagula later became teary-eyed and shaken as he recounted the event for police Chief Robert Barry.
Levasseur, meanwhile, never saw the gun go off and initially refused to go to the hospital because he said he felt fine.
What still hasn't been made public is what in-house penalties, if any, Smagula or the other officers have received or may receive. When Smagula accidentally shot Levasseur, they were inside a partially constructed bank doing an impromptu training session without the bank's permission.
Barry said the department will use the attorney general's final report to conduct its own internal review. But personnel matters such as officer discipline are confidential, he said. All four officers, Smagula, Levasseur, and Officers Nicole Brown and Thomas Hughes, still work for the department.
Barry also said he could not disclose what policies the department has revised since the shooting, although he issued a press release indicating some policies had been reviewed and revised.
Much of the report issued yesterday is a repeat of a preliminary report issued in early May, shortly after the shooting.
Levasseur had suggested to Smagula that they use the Granite State Credit Union under construction on Sheep Davis Road as a training site during the midnight shift if things weren't too busy. Levasseur had discovered the partially built bank was accessible through an unlocked door the night before when he was called there for a 911 hangup call, according to the attorney general's office.
Smagula, an 11-year veteran with the department and a member of the tactical team, had taken and given several police trainings in building searches, firearm safety and hostage rescue. If the night shift was quiet, it was customary for him to call in the younger officers and put them through technique trainings inside the station, the report said.
But he liked the idea of training inside the bank and had Levasseur, Hughes and Williams, the last two brand new officers, meet at the credit union about 3 a.m., the report said. They unloaded their weapons safely - facing away from one another - and then checked one another's guns to be sure they were indeed unloaded.
Then, for more than an hour, Smagula trained them on searching a building. When Hughes entered a room unsafely, exposing himself to a suspect, Smagula "dry fired" his empty gun to illustrate the danger, the report said. After the training, the officers reloaded - again facing away from one another - and prepared to leave.
As they did, Levasseur asked Smagula how fast they could search the building now that they knew the floor plan. Smagula explained technique - not speed - should be an officer's first concern. He began to demonstrate how to walk through a slow search, gun pointed down, his finger off the trigger, the report said.
When Smagula said something to the officers, his arm drifted and his gun fired, the report said. Smagula told officers he has no memory of pulling the trigger but knows he did because his gun has no history of firing on its own. No one in the building saw Smagula put his finger on the trigger, the report said, and investigators concluded that it slipped from beside the trigger to the trigger.
Levasseur heard Smagula's gun fire and felt a pain in his chest, the report said. The bullet didn't penetrate his police vest, but it stunned him, the report said. He opened his shirt and saw a little blood.
He told investigators the first thing he remembered saying was, "What the heck just happened?"
The other three rushed to Levasseur and tried to make him sit down, the report said. He finally agreed, but after a minute got up and approached Smagula, who'd just called the incident in to a lieutenant at the station.
"(Levasseur) walked over to (Smagula), shook his hand and told him he was okay, and then hugged him," the report said. They then got into Smagula's cruiser and returned to the station with the other officers following.
Levasseur noticed Smagula was very pale, the report said, and asked if he was all right. "Sgt. Smagula said that he was but that it was the worst day of his life," the report said.
Back at the station, Lt. John Brown and Smagula insisted Levasseur go to Concord Hospital in case he had suffered worse injuries than believed. Barry, awoken at home about 4:45 a.m. to be told of the shooting, visited Levasseur at the hospital. Then he went to the station.
Barry asked Smagula if he was okay and whether he wanted to call anyone. Smagula replied that he'd rather tell Barry what had happened. Barry listened, the report said, without asking questions. Smagula's voice cracked as he talked and he was emotional, Barry later told investigators.
When he later talked with investigators, Smagula said hearing his gun fire was "the only true surprise" of his life. He said he felt that he had died the moment he realized he had hit Levasseur.
The state police and state attorney general's office interviewed all the officers involved and Brown and Barry in the days immediately after the shooting. The officers said they never felt unsafe during the training and reported there had been no horseplay or joking.
The state concluded that Smagula did not intentionally draw his gun on Levasseur or intentionally pull the trigger. Without intent, he did not commit a crime, the state said. Investigators looked at first-degree assault, second-degree assault, simple assault and reckless conduct.
William Roberts, the president of risk and security for the credit union, said yesterday that his office is not pursuing the police department for using the credit union without permission. He said the bank considers the issue in the past and not likely to happen again given that the credit union is now finished and open for business.
"And honestly, I'd rather have (the police) paying close attention to the site," Roberts said.
The story can be found at; Training Shooting Left Sergeant Shaken
Note: If this incident had occurred amongst non LEO citizens acting unlawfully and whilst _trespassing_ (!) like these officers were, then all persons involved would be charged with something and the shooter most likely with 'Assault with a firearm' which is a felony (!).