A Shocking Update in Florida “Citizens Police Academy” Shooting

Moment of horror: 9 Aug 2016, then-Officer Lee Coel, left, role-playing as a criminal, has just mortally wounded Mary Knowlton, right, role-playing as a cop. Knowlton had a Simunitions-modified Glock; Coel, a personal Smith & Wesson Airweight with live wadcutters. PGPD/FDLE photo.

Lee Williams has an update on the Punta Gorda, FL, shooting death of 73-year-old retiree Mary Knowlton. The police officer who killed her, Lee Coel, has been fired and charged with manslaughter, and the police chief, Tom Lewis, has also been charged with some trivial misdemeanor (although he clings to his job) in what has turned out to be the most incredible and horrifying bad shoot in this young century.

Hey, at least when NYPD shoots nine bystanders, they’re trying to shoot a criminal, and they know they’re firing live ammo. This cockeyed Keystone incompetence has no such excuse.

According to investigative reports and crime scene photos released Wednesday, former Punta Gorda Police Officer Lee Coel loaded Blazer .38 Special hollow-base wadcutters into his Smith & Wesson .38 Special  Airweight revolver, instead of Winchester blank rounds.

ATF traced the murder weapon to Officer Coel… just in case he was inclined to lie about that, too.

Coel then pointed his revolver at 73-year-old retired librarian Mary Knowlton and pulled the trigger four times.

Knowlton was hit twice.

“Mrs. Knowlton was struck by two of the four bullets that were fired. One bullet ricocheted off the engine hood of the parked car and struck Mrs. Knowlton in the abdomen, where it remained. Another bullet ricocheted off the engine hood and struck her in the inside of her left elbow, where it remained. A third bullet ricocheted off the engine hood and came to rest at an unknown location. The fourth bullet entered and lodged in the driver’s side door of the parked vehicle,” the FDLE report states.

An autopsy later showed that the fatal round perforated Knowlton’s aorta.

The next line is one that always makes us lose focus for a minute, because it’s the classically mealy-mouthed passive voice of responsibility shirkers.

The FDLE report indicates that mistakes were made.

“Mistakes were made,” my ever-lovin’ eye.

The mistakes “were made” by somebody, or several somebodies: Coel and the Punta Gorda police chief, to be sure, but also, as an outraged Williams points out, by every officer who attended this kind of half-assed “training,” and didn’t speak up.

Do Read The Whole Thing™, as Williams extracts a whole litany of lessons from these morons, but the fact is, somebody chose the easy wrong (“Hey, a revolver works great with blanks,” over the hard right, “How do we do this without pointing a live weapon at anybody?”).

.38 blank, left. .38 Hollow Base WadCutter practice ammo, right. FDLE photo.

Lee is not buying the idea that the superficial similarity of the rounds somehow excuses the shoot.

Anyone who has ever taken even the most basic firearm safety course will see that a plethora of mistakes — an entire chain of mistakes — occurred long before Coel was unable to distinguish wadcutters from blanks, and then loaded the fatal rounds.

I’m sure there may be some who say — because the wadcutters and blanks look somewhat alike — that they now understand how this could have happened.

That’s bunk.

This never should have happened.

Adherence to even the most basic fundamentals of firearms safety would have prevented this needless, tragic death.

Lee Williams has written an update, calling for the resignation or firing of Lewis. Apart from Lee’s points, just the hiring of Coel, who had failed at other police departments, calls into question Lewis’s judgment — and makes one wonder whether other clockwork bombs are ticking away in the Punta Gorda PD.

One gets the impression that Coel is that rare thing, the sort of cop who always wanted to shoot somebody. Now that he’s done it, maybe he understands why all the other cops aren’t like that. In partial defense of Lewis, he seems to have cooperated with the investigation.

The same cannot be said of Coel. He lawyered up and shut up, getting a privilege you would not, and he and his lawyer lied in a statement submitted by letter, claiming that he had called out to test fire the blanks while on duty. This was contradicted by the recollections of the dispatchers and the radio logs and tapes.

Only four fired casings from Coel’s revolver were recovered, but the revolver has five chambers, and the partial box of live .38 ammo in his car contained 35 rounds — 50 minus three revolver loads. That suggests that Coel pocketed or otherwise disposed of the one remaining live round in an attempt to evade responsibility (witnesses agree that he fired four shots, and traces, at least, of four shots were found). The manufacturer of the casings from the firearm and the matching box of live ammo in the car, CCI, does not manufacture centerfire blanks, and confirmed that to the investigation.

The FDLE investigation’s complete report is being trickled out only to friendly reporters. A partial textual report is here: FDLE Report on Punta Gorda Shooting.pdf

Another news story based on access to the full report contains this chilling note:

Punta Gorda police Lt. Katie Heck said she “probably” gave Coel a box of live ammunition, thinking they were blanks, the report said.

“Probably.”

It’s beginning to look like Coel was just the tip of the incompetence iceberg, and nobody in that department knew what he or she was doing.

Lewis, meanwhile is on “paid administrative leave.” Yep, he’s been vacationing on his failure for seven months and counting. Maybe someone should give him his incompetent officer’s revolver, and a box of what his incompetent lieutenant thinks are blanks, and urge him to do the right thing.

66 thoughts on “A Shocking Update in Florida “Citizens Police Academy” Shooting

  1. JAFO

    I have no familiarity with Florida law, but this case is a classic example of the sort of reckless indifference to the potential consequences of their idiocy (as in death) that rises to the level of a crime. It should be treated as such, and perhaps, depending on the facts, with more guilty parties than the shooter himself.

  2. Boat Guy

    “Punta Gorda police Lt. Katie Heck said she “probably” gave Coel a box of live ammunition, thinking they were blanks, the report said. ”

    Words fail me.

    1. Aesop

      Florida is remarkably even-keeled that the citizenry didn’t simply assemble with torches and pitchforks, and skip the judicial processes here.

      Lt. Dipstick should “probably” be indicted and prosecuted as well, and certainly fired.
      Perhaps with a box of “blanks.”
      @$$holes with badges. And guns. Anecdotally, perhaps 25-30% of the species.
      And Case #262,831 of “Ah am duh oney one here qualified to carry ah Glock fowty…BANG!”

  3. ToastieTheCoastie

    It’s just so odd to me… in matters that require absolute discretion, none was apparent. Sometimes I wonder if we’ve just reached a point where day to day life has so much inconsequential BS that people are unable to discern the things that are deadly serious.

    1. Hognose Post author

      Yeah. I bet the Punta Gorda PD has checked every imaginable diversity-training box in 2016, but their firearms culture is one of casual overconfidence that suggests weak procedures and absent-to-haphazard training.

  4. medic09

    So Heck “probably” (to me that means “defiinitely”) gave Coel a box of live ammo. But the next step should have been that Coel “probably” should have looked at the box as he received it. And he should have looked again before loading the rounds into his pistol.

    That’s what we’ve learned to do with medications before administering. And even then, to be a bit observant and cautious.

    Since stories can be instructive, here’s one of mine:

    I went to our pharmacy machine to pull out Morphine for a patient. I input all the right info, at which point the machine opens only the one drawer containing the verified medication. I pulled the medication. While administering the medication, I went slowly and watched my patient. That’s just good practice, especially when giving narcotics. The patient started getting very loopy only half way through the ordered dose; so I stopped there. Enough.

    I mentioned to my colleague how the pt had reacted so strongly to only half the dose. She looked at the carpujet and pointed out it wasn’t Morphine. It was Dilaudid (about 10X as strong as Morphine for similar concentration). We went back and checked the entire incident thoroughly (including reporting it). Turns out the pharmacy tech had loaded the automated Morphine drawer with Dilauded. I had put in all the right information, but received the wrong drug. It also turned out this had happened to another nurse hours earlier, only they hadn’t reported it.

    I had broken a primary rule of working with medications. I relied on the “safe” computerized system, instead of 2 seconds of eyeballing as the medication was being dispensed. Lesson learned.

    Heck may have given the wrong ammo. But Coel should have checked when he received it, and again when he loaded it. I got off lucky in my little incident; his victim (and he) did not.

    1. Hognose Post author

      Hey, Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones used Dilaudid a bunch of times, and he only had a problem with it once.

    2. Mike_C

      “I’m in 10/10 pain, doc. But you gotta know I’m allergic to morphine. I’m allergic to everything except dilaudid.” Sometimes the trying-to-be-clever ones amend that to “… everything except, um, I think they call it dilau- something?” Having someone scam you is annoying. Having a stupid person try to scam you in a flagrantly transparent fashion is either amusing or maddening, depending on what kind of day you are having.

      In the same vein of loading up the meds cabinet wrong, I was once handed a stack of chemotherapy orders in anticipation of patients who were going to report to hospital that night for scheduled chemo. (I was literally a convenient overnight person to hold the orders, not part of the oncology team.) So in a rare down moment I scanned the sheaf of papers. One caught my eye: a six-foot-two man supposedly had a body surface area of 1.60m2 or something like that. (Some meds are dispensed according to “BSA” which is an estimate of body size.) This was clearly too low. Called the oncologist, this was around midnight or so, and asked what was up. “Are you the chemo nurse?” Um, no. Long story short, it seemed that instead of 74 inches someone entered 62 inches (probably because of “six [foot] two”) as the patient’s height. After a brief discussion the oncologist said, “Just tell the nurse to hold off on starting his chemo tonight. I’ll straighten it out in the AM.” Then as he was about to hang up, the oncologist said musingly, “Hmmm. This is probably why he didn’t respond to the first round of chemo.” Urk.

      1. Wheelsee

        Off topic – I put the Dilaudid in a 50 cc bag of NS and run it in over 20 minutes…..they get the pain relief without the buzz…….the tell is when they tell me “no doc, it only works when you push it……” ……..”get outta my ED”…….

        1. Steve M.

          My wife hated that working in the hospital. People claiming all sorts of stuff to get buzzed on pain meds. I wonder if hospitals will ever release the numbers of drug addled people claiming health problems for pain meds?

    3. Aesop

      I love me some ancillary personnel, I do. Respiratory, pharmacy, whatever.
      But you have to assume everyone else in medicine is Gilligan in order to do your job safely.

  5. LCPL Martinez USMC

    Why would a 73 year old woman, librarian, want to play cop or play Wyatt Earp / Doc Holiday?

    How was this “Citizens Police Academy” billed as, for simply knowing laws and procedures, for becoming volunteer explorers/ auxiliaries , or was this just some senior program to get seniors up and about (nothing wrong with that, i guess, but is the police the best resource for this?)?

    I don’t understand these police training scenarios for civilians and media of late—- they did something similar awhile back, which became a classic gotcha of the media, when said news reporter (or was it some Black Lives Matter protest leader?) who participated decided to “shoot” prematurely (and the lesson supposedly was that a cop’s job was difficult).

    If they want to open up police training to media and civilians, put them thru the wringer which is long hours of drawing, undrawing weapons, then long hours of explaining what justified the drawing of said weapon; then eventually get to when to use deadly force,

    legal stuff, case law, a lot more bs, etc. etc. etc. that way… by the time you get to the computer/video screen scenarios, they’d have decided, there’s better things to do with one’s time after all.

    These senior groups will camp out at police stations if allowed to, so nip it in the bud, why were they encouraged to play Billy the Kid? I hope this story spreads to as many senior living and groups out there , and they stay clear away now from police stations— encourage them to hang out at their local US congressmen’s office instead, or state senators…

    anywhere but the police.

    RIP to the 73 year old woman (my heart goes out), and I hope the whole department gets turned inside out for even offering such a “training” class , but this notion that civic groups get “trained” (especially seniors/retirees) by the police needs to stop… police training should just be “you can make a citizens arrest”, period, “you guys want extra ’emergency’ training, go to the fire department, learn CPR or something more useful for the community and within your capacity”;

    “you wanna shoot, go to the gun range”; “you wanna run around while shooting, get into paintball and/or airsoft”, period.

    1. Hognose Post author

      It’s like ride-alongs. It’s a community service and public relations thing designed to connect people with police. As I understand the exercise, it was meant to let the participant, in this case the ultimate victim, experience how quickly things can go pear-shaped and how little time a PO has to make a snap shoot/no-shoot judgment.

      In the light of the Black Criminals’ Lives Matter movement, lots of people who would normally support cops reflexively — like the old retirees with whom Punta Gorda teems — are asking questions that current and retired armed pros like many of us reading this blog know are nonsensical: “Why not shoot the gun out of his hand? Why not use rubber bullets?”

      This kind of exercise has been very effective in waking those people up to the dimensions of the problem. In one case, the cops (using a sophisticated projection shoot/no-shoot simulator) made a chastened believer out of one of the BCLM leaders, and that one case got a lot of press.

      It appears that, in the instant case, the shooter and the other officers involved with him (including Lieutenant I-Guess-These’re-Blanks) were trying to do that, but by winging, instead of planning, it.

      1. LCpl Martinez 29 Palms

        I can understand community outreach, a cup of coffee with the station/precinct captain, town hall with area sergeants, ride-alongs, volunteers, etc. It humanizes the PD,

        Logistically though, IMHO, it just seems a lot of work to get the point of how difficult these shoot/no-shoot scenarios are to the public; maybe just stop at computer screen Shooting Simulator (that should be enough),

        and save all that Simunition rounds for the troops to play with?

        I dunno if what Coel had was an overtime gig under his department for doing this, BUT the logistics of creating these things for 70 year old seniors no less, seem a little too much the effort , i guess they’re well-staffed if they can spare personnel and time.

        Best case if a dept. has money/staffing to spare just run Shooting Simulations in comfy room, if there’s no money and man-power to spare (ie. the streets are busy) why not just regale these interested civilians with stories instead, explain use of force, the law, etc.— same outcome, IMHO, without the possibility of heatstrokes, heart attacks, senior injuries to boot,

        seems the juice just isn’t worth the squeeze, Hog (those who are anti- will be, those who are pro- will always be, those in between can be easily regaled with stories, just hang out with them explain the work, and save on Simunition rounds—– and Wadcutters!).

        1. Hognose Post author

          Typical PD does not have the capital budget to capitate, nor the cash flow to lease, a shooting simulator. That’s still a major-metro-dep’t tool at the moment.

          1. Raoul Duke

            They are getting surprisingly affordable. There are several systems that require nothing more than a laptop, PowerPoint projector, and a couple of laser-emitting guns, like SIRT pistols. These can also integrate laser-shooting trainer TASERS, pepper spray, etc…

          2. LCPL Martinez USMC 29 Palms

            That’s what i’d figure too , Raoul.

            With the leaps and bounds of this technology alone, I’m sure the stuff used say in 2003 , would be bargain cheap. If the point is just the shoot/no-shoot decision, just get a screen up there and play a video—- have them say bang! or no bang!,

            then ask them why or why not, then make it a group discussion, laws, policies, etc. then run it again. that’d be probably more effective.

            We do knife training with those erasable white board markers, you can do training on the cheap, and still get the most important points, lessons to be learned across.

            Aside from the “accidental” , criminal negligent, shooting, this academy idea was too elaborate, IMHO. Was the juice really worth the squeeze?

      2. Aesop

        Because, apparently, it’s easier to baffle them with feel-good b.s. than actually suggest, to both rank-and-file and administration, that departments properly following Peel’s Principles as a foundation of police work would be a lot smarter in the long run, and that level of common sense is just too hard.

    2. jakew7

      Don’t let 73 years of age fool ya.

      My mom passed when aged 76.
      She grew up in Kentucky, down near Bowling Green, Ky. USA, shooting with a Colt Woodsman, on the Barren River. We always had one of those around.

      Went on to national service, which involved flying the “Hump” with O2 bottles and mask on a C-47, during WW2, and spending time in Berlin, post victory, trying to help rebuild that shattered society.
      That hit her pretty hard.

      Brought home, and always had at hand, a Webley and Scott .25…always.
      Neat little pistol.

      Nevertheless…was fierce mom who always had love of pushing one’s limits.

      No big surprise that I went into SF…but she didn’t like it…especially because I didn’t call home enough.
      Now the same gig is with my daughter, who was shooting and demonstrating clearing and cleaning of an AK at age 15. She’s out west. Tahoe. Rock climber. Ski worker.
      Doesn’t call home enough. Dammit.

      Funny, the way of warriors.

      At 73, was goofing around with SCCA II events in her diesel VW Golf…while I was running old Alfa Romeo GTV’s.

      1. LCPL Martinez USMC 29 Palms

        I ‘m not trying to be anti-AARP here, and I do know that there are old folks who still kick-ass even in their later years, jakew7.

        My point is why do police departments feel the need to do these “academies” (especially for old folks, the liability possibilities are just staggering, accidents— though accidental shootings are not what I have in mind, just stuff associated with seniors doing strenuous stuff).

        OK, public outreach I understand. But IMHO,

        these Use of Force public service announcements are better done say when a shooting or abuse happens, then the Chief or some training cadre, explains the parameters to the public, and procedures, and all that stuff.

        If incidents don’t make it in the news, then have a weekly (or monthly) meeting with the public wherein everyone gets a run down on how force was applied in each specific incident… I’m all for educating the public, but running these scenarios (because they take so much work) should be reserved for the troops,

        if the public wants to play cop, have them volunteer at the desk first and let them earn a slot at Simunitions training at the next go-round.

        If it’s a string of small towns with small pd’s, have a panel of each’s different training cadres explain different force options, make it a learning curve for the police too, as well as the public—- I’ve always wondered by Grand Juries get to pass judgement on police use of force (from deadly, to unnecessary, to abuse/excessive),

        when it should be a jury of his/her peers who know the Use of Force ttp’s and policies/ and the law ,

        you wanna educate the public on how police Use Force, have a panel or “grand jury” (selected, or random, and impermanent, hell make it state-wide to ensure impartiality ) of peer police officers (their brass, training cadre, patrol officers, etc. police who are where the rubber meets the road).

        One or two or three Simunition scenarios may drive home the point of “man, policing is difficult”, but actually getting into the nitty-gritty of the laws, and policies (there are varying policies), to actually individual implementation, now that’s what the public should be learning.

        That’s my point—- that these Simunitions-based training is in the end just band-aid. Every time some shooting happens, media gets invited by police departments and they run these reporters thru scenarios, and still no actual understanding of use of force, because it’s band-aid.

        (Incidentally, jake, I had a serendipitous dinner with a fella about 95 years old the other day , you talk about old warriors this guy was one, still see it in his eyes. Wore a beret too, not the military ones but ones French wear in public with a little string on top.

        turns out he worked under Gen. Patton’s S-2 right before the end of WW2, then after Patton’s death, they had an outfit, right after WW2 which criss-crossed Eastern Europe, all the way to Siberia. kinda like the way the 6th Army had the Alamo Scouts, but this was post-WW2

        I asked him if that program was under the OSS, nope. CIA wasn’t around, neither Special Forces, nope 1945-47 (48?) they fell directly under the 3rd Army, Patton’s S-2 chief set it up, after Patton died, they had a good run, then i guess the OSS consolidated everything within the CIA. That’s 2-3 years I’d love to hear about more of, not OSS, pre-CIA, before Special Forces. )

        1. LCPL Martinez USMC 29 Palms

          you wanna educate the public on how police Use Force, have a panel or “grand jury” (selected, or random, and impermanent, hell make it state-wide to ensure impartiality ) of peer police officers (their brass, training cadre, patrol officers, etc. police who are where the rubber meets the road).

          I forgot to add,

          that each police officer in that panel or grand jury, get to write their thoughts on the incident, ie. how it could’ve been done better, etc. Maybe have a minority report too.

          Mind you, they’re not there to make case law, but simply to comment on the Use of Force at hand. then the attorneys can take it where they want to, but at least other police officers get an education, as well as the public, before it gets legalized or politicized.

        2. TRX

          I haven’t read that everyone in the class was in their seventies. Likely, it was a cross section of “interested citizens who didn’t have to be at work.”

          Also, some seniors are quite active socially, which is the kind of thing you’re after when you’re staging a propaganda event like that.

          Unfortunately for the cops, the information they put out was “our PD is full of ass-covering bureaucrats and murderers.”

        3. Aesop

          Part of the problem with educating reporters is that you’re applying education to journalists — (obligatory pause to let the fundamental problem sink in…) — which is perilously close to teaching pigs to whistle. Sheet music, at that point, isn’t much of a training aid.

        4. Bob Bobson

          “when it should be a jury of his/her peers who know the Use of Force ttp’s and policies/ and the law ,”

          No, it absolutely shouldn’t. Like the military, the police are employed at the pleasure of the citizenry (or that’s the theory.) The citizenry establishes what the acceptable parameters of policing entail; use of force, equipment they will fund, etc. I’m concerned the truly political posts, chief, etc., aren’t elected positions like the sheriff.

          If the law could somehow justify a use of force the public in general isn’t in favor of, will a panel of police send it to trial? As an institution of power, where is the incentive to restrict their own activities? Or to fail to define them as favorably as possible? How does it help the public perception to review any controversial incident behind closed doors by the perpetrator’s colleagues. Any response besides moving forward with trial opens the process up to accusations of a cover-up.

          Forcing a prosecutor to explain why the accused should be tried, police or not, to the public is a cornerstone of the legal tradition. And if the powers that be want to maintain an event as an example of correct behavior, it’s all too easy for the prosecutor to flub the grand jury and have the empaneled public believe “no true bill” is the correct vote.

          1. LCPL M.

            “If the law could somehow justify a use of force the public in general isn’t in favor of, will a panel of police send it to trial? “

            Bob,

            I’m not attempting to change criminal legal procedure here, i’m simply adding an extra layer, which seems very relevant,

            the Use of Force panel, made up of police officers (who work in the streets, not investigators or office officers) , are there to offer their opinion on the Use of Force only,

            then an actual jury can decide good or bad (having been educated by that process),

            But the point is too educate the general public from which the jury pool is taken, on how Force is Used,

            it’s the same way in the military (though jury of peer usually means officers, or non-combat types).

            Also what I’m describing is not behind closed doors, it’ll be very transparent in which Use of Force panel officers will make their review public, the whole point here is not only to educate the general public how Force is Used correctly (or ideally),

            but also as a means to train police themselves, by publicizing what they can and can’t do, everyone’s the wiser here , Bob. (read again what i’m proposing above, it’s very open and transparent… )

            “How does it help the public perception to review any controversial incident behind closed doors by the perpetrator’s colleagues.”

            Read again all the above, i’m proposing the EXACT opposite!

          2. LCPL M.

            “Forcing a prosecutor to explain why the accused should be tried, police or not, to the public is a cornerstone of the legal tradition.”

            Bob,

            Remember the standard is what a trained officer would do in a given situation.

            Excusable homicide by the general public ; and justified homicide by police are two different standards… so too lesser uses of force.

            My premise here,

            is simple that the regular guy off the street won’t know what the trained officer ought to do , because he’s not trained (granted, intelligence, stress, common sense, compassion, risk taking will vary greatly from officer to officer, that’s all subjective) ,

            the purpose of this Use of Force panel is to make objective the process of Use of Force (all spectrum) , by having other officers objectively review said incident,

            like I said above, the panel need not solely be connected to the legal system, it can be a weekly question & answer session open to the public in any given community , and/or written as a blog, done as a Simunitions scenario , and video taped , to be nit-picked by everyone (both public and civilian alike).

            For example the Mike Brown/Ferguson Police incident (since this popped back up in the news again), i never saw on the news the explanation for 2 sets (groups) of casings on the road (ground), with Mike Brown’s body felled near the last set of casings.

            Sure the jury chosen in court can subjectively, make their opinions on whether or not Mike Brown was moving forward to attack, or if he was simply stumbling forward having been shot by the 1st volley (group) of fire by the officer,

            and the court jury can also make a subjective opinion on whether or not the Officer involved should have assumed more risk for himself and stopped shooting during the 1st volley of rounds,

            BUT objectively, a Use of Force panel can offer insight into the seconds involved before, during and after these 2 volleys of fire, like other options that were available to the officer (ie. a front kick, distancing, etc.); but also the idea of having a partner as a deterrent to these eventualities (2 man patrols),

            objectively speaking, a Use of Force panel can shed a lot of light, for the jury that’s about to offer its subjective opinion on the incident, as well as shed light to the general public.

            So the premise I’m making here is to train the public on what a trained police officer ought to do, his parameters within that USE of FORCE spectrum, it’s not gonna be black and white, no borders, just shades of what he can and cannot do

            (a person who has NEVER used force in any circumstance will sadly always err in support or in opposition , because of this ignorance—- hence the need to explain ).

  6. John D

    “Maybe someone should give him his incompetent officer’s revolver, and a box of what his incompetent lieutenant thinks are blanks, and urge him to do the right thing.”

    And even then he probably wouldn’t be able to accomplish the task, unless he caught a “lucky” ricochet.

  7. Eric

    The Lt needs to hang with the shooter… but since women do not make mistakes, she will get off scot-free. And she will get a promotion at some point in the future, with this not being a part of her LE record. Bank on it.

    1. DaveP.

      The two cops who gave his escaped victim back to Jeff Dahmer got “Officers of the Year” by the Milwaukee Police Organization. One went on to be elected president of that organization, the other is now a police chief in Wisconsin. Four additional victims, plus the guy they handed back over, and no real consequences. Male or female, the blues take care of their own no matter what.

  8. Kirk

    I hear all the time about people complaining that they are “militarizing the police”.

    From where I sit, that would be a great fucking idea, because if nothing else, the military has these concepts called “Rules of Engagement” and “Accountability”–Both of which are apparently completely alien to police operations in all too many regions of the US.

    Not to mention, professionalization of training. I mean, seriously–Who the fuck keeps blanks at home, and then hands them out to exercise participants? Where was the leadership inspection, to ensure that Officer Dimwit didn’t have live ammo loaded?

    On top of that, how the hell did that female PIO make the mistake of handing him wadcutters, instead of blanks? I wonder if the silly bint even knows the difference–It’s been my sad experience that there aren’t too many cops that know shit about small arms in the first place, and the females who are “switched on” are an even tinier proportion than the general run of male cops. Stories I could tell… Sheesh.

    This should never have happened. I don’t think we are even authorized to be using Simunitions around the hired players they use at places like JRTC and NTC–I remember the rules as being “Don’t even shoot blanks at them with MILES gear on, unless you’re at least 15m away…”.

    1. John M.

      Brandon Lee was unavailable to comment on the safety of being shot with blanks.

      -John M.

      1. DaveP.

        There are a lot of guys who can testify to that (Jon-Erik Hexum the most famous, but there are others), but Lee’s case always smelled funny to me.

          1. Sommerbiwak

            Has made me wonder what a live round does on a movie set since it happened. And why movie guns are not converted into pure blank guns that cannot shoot live cartridges.

          2. DaveP.

            I do too, but that’s not what the ‘official’ version says.
            Here’s the Pravda:
            1- That revolver was never converted to use blanks, i.e. it was still capable of firing regular cartridges.
            2- It had been taken off property to do some recordings of gunshots to dub over the soundtrack (this is a pretty common procedure, I’m told).
            3- It had a squib load, which nobody noticed or remarked upon, leaving a bullet lodged in the barrel.
            3a- That was the last shot of the cylinder AND of the day fired through it, because if not it would have become real noticeable real fast.
            4- The revolver was then taken back to the studio prop department, without cleaning or being checked, and put up.
            5- The day of the shoot, someone drew that revolver from the prop department and loaded it with blanks, without checking it in any way.
            6- The blank- loaded to create a pretty flash and a bang sound, not to act as a powerhead- produced enough pressure to dislodge the bullet stuck in the barrel and propel it over ten feet into Mr. Lee’s torso with enough velocity to create a terminal wound.

            Well, I may not be the White Queen, but I can still believe two or three impossible things before breakfast- but all that chained together leaves me scratching my head.

          3. Aesop

            Nope; the packing wad from a .44Mag “blank”, IIRC, took out Lee at close range;
            Hexum pointed his blank-loaded weapon at his own temple, pulled the trigger – “Just blanks!”, and cancelled his show on the spot.

          4. DaveP.

            Aesop: I just quoted the official verdict that the inquest returned. Some of the elements are questionable in the extreme but the distance between shooter and victim is pretty solid (because this was being filmed). Recommended minimum safe distance on blanks is four feet; the shooting occurred at 12-15.

            I personally feel it was a lot more likely that the revolver in question was loaded with live rounds (most likely left loaded and never checked after the recording shoot) than anything else. If you have other information, I’d be glad to hear it.

    2. archy

      If the actual *blank* wadcutter ammunition used was the CCI *Blazer* aluminum cased training ammo shown in the pics, I can understand that both of the immediately involved officers might well have considered it to be something other than *normal* brass or nickle-plated cased duty ammunition.

      But that is hardly a good reason to disregard it as not being *real* live ammo. Even reenactors discharge their black powder guns while pointed up at enough of an angle that any wadding that doesn’t break up won’t harm anyone-much-in the opposing ranks.

      I’ve also seen some pretty nasty injuries caused by military 7.62 blanks in the M14 Rifle when the blank adaptor wasn’t latched on firmly and flew off toward the target. Sometimes intentionally….

  9. John M.

    OK, let’s count the ways this went wrong and should have been headed off.

    1. All guns are always loaded. This is rule one, and it’s no fooling around. Guns aren’t toys. Guns aren’t props. You don’t use them to scare your buddies in a prank and “it’s OK because it was unloaded.” It’s not OK, and it’s not unloaded.
    2. Buy a friggin cap gun. They run about $15 on Amazon with the caps. Paint it black if you have to.
    3. Buy a friggin Airsoft gun. Those sting (or at least you can feel it) when they hit you, so add some feedback, with no actual danger as long as everyone wears sunglasses.

    I have serious problems with using real firearms with blanks, simunitions, wax loads, or whatever. It’s a gun, not a toy. It’s an accident waiting to happen, and it’s preventable.

    -John M.

  10. jakew7

    “Shocking Update!”…Immediately made me think that it was of the “alleged” homosexual rape of a young man involved in Louisville Metro Police Department’s Explorer Program.

    http://www.wave3.com/story/34923975/councilman-calls-for-investigation-of-lmpd-youth-program-amid-sex-allegations

    Seems that the “investigation”, within the department, was effete, and there is mention of coverup.
    Now, some heads are going to roll. I think.
    Mayor’s called in the feds.
    They are going to shortly put together a matrix of who knew what, when.

    Shame of a story, this, and the one above.

    Remind me to tell the story of when some of our SF mob, reservists, were doing rudimentary clearing in the early 80’s, with 12 ga. riot shotguns, using blanks that were loud, flame and all out of the muzzle…not the little pttt of blank firing devices for M16s. :)

    Did my own little train up at home in the woods, prior to drill, with live rounds in my load bearing equipment. (dumped/arranged into a 30 rnd magazine pouch with the partitions cut out), to try to see how fast I could load it out of an ammo pouch, how to orient the shells, etc.
    Vertical is best I think.. Primer up. Grab a handful.

    Dumped all the shells out at the end of the day.
    I thought.

    Went to training with blanks loaded in the same piece of kit the next day.
    Firing right at, not near, some other team guys.
    Reached to the bottom of my ammo bag and brought up the last round I had and something was wrong……slightly heavier…didn’t feel like the others. Didn’t fire.
    Turned out to be a common bird shot round that didn’t get get dumped out of the pouch, because had been caught in there by the way I had picked up the gear to make sure all the live stuff was out of the gear. Scared me plenty.

    I understand completely why now there are red and blue weapons dedicated for training only.
    This knowledge and emphasis on the same subject has to have come from a whole lot unfortunate case histories.

    HN, please edit or delete the post as needed. Didn’t mean to run so far off into the cornfield.:)

    1. archy

      Ah yes, Louisville PD. The *effite* investigations- and investigators- in LPD go back so far, they’re practically a tradition.

      Also back in the late ’80’s, I recall the son of one LPD investigator being charged by a grand jury in a molestation case -along with a partner- with sexual crimes against two 14-year-old boys. The late-20’s sexual predator wisely decided to vacation across the state line in neighboring Indiana, where he continued his hobby. Come high school graduation time in the Hoosier state, he helped introduce one 18-year old to his wonderful alternative lifestyle, following which the 18-year old died, whereupon his body was dumped across yet another state line, Illinois this time. The Indiana County Prosecutor and grand jury didn’t give a rat’s behind that daddy was a cop, and this time, he got indicted. and convicted. and sentenced.

      To 18 months in *prison*, for driving without a license and concealment of a homicide, reduced to 9 months with time off for good behavior. Which the by-then 29-year-old served at the Indiana Boy’s School, just across the river from Louisville, pretty much a *dream sheet* assignment for a molester with a taste for teenaged boys.

      Happily, there was some small measure of justice to befall the perp. But it did not come courtesy of the courts or cops of the LPD

  11. nick

    I winter in Iona which is right around the corner from Punta Gorda.
    I also shoot with some Lee county sheriff’s and Ft Myers PD officers.
    It’s the things that are not said that tell the story if you are paying attention.
    With that, what happened with this lady was horrible gross negligence PERIOD!!
    People were up in arms over it done here, I asked folks back home if they knew about it and all of them said no.
    I personally feel everyone involved should be stripped of their duties and jailed.

  12. nick

    BTW ,it was put to me just like this,” Any Asshole can tell the difference in weight of the cartridges”

    1. John M.

      If someone has gotten to the point that they’re betting librarians’ lives on the weight of .38 Spl cartridges, it’s time to stop and check a whole bunch of your assumptions.

      -John M.

      1. Loren

        I suppose she could have put trust in that nobody can hit with a snub nose 38 but the ricochets doubled the odds and she got hit 2/4. Broad side of a car hood being large enough to make a difference.
        Once when I was having a custom stock made I had extreme difficulty allowing the guy to look down the barrels from the muzzle end to see if the cast off was sufficient. Some things are just ingrained – to some anyways.

  13. Raoul Duke

    The issue of who should participate in this training aside…

    ANY training with Simunition/UTX/Airsoft should include the following safety steps:

    1. A secured training area, with only one way in and out.
    2. 100% searches of all people entering and leaving, for any live guns or ammo. Everyone will be searched again when they leave or re-enter.
    3. Only allow training guns that CANNOT accept live, ball-type ammo. Sim guns have constricted barrels and chambers that will not accept live ball rounds.
    4. One safety person is responsible for loading and checking all weapons.
    5. Body armor should be worn, anyway.

    Any deviation from these guidelines is clownshoes, and potentially tragic.

    1. John M.

      This is how you do it right. Make it so that it takes multiple screw-ups for an accident to happen. That’s why we have 4 rules of gun safety and not one or two.

      “Dude shoulda made sure they were blanks” is true so far as it goes, but who designed a system that made it so that one stupid mistake resulted in a death?

      -John M.

      1. Aesop

        Umm, FTR, there were only about 32 stupid mistakes in this particular chain of homicide.
        If I miscounted, it would be on the “under” side of the betting line.

  14. John

    Armorer for nearly 20 years. Learned that few know what brand of ammo their dept. uses. Some don’t know what caliber. Got a .45 cal. pistol in with the complaint that “it is splitting the cases” sure enough it was, they were all 10 MM. Replaced many .40 cal. SMG bbls. with the bore obstructed by 9MM rounds (loaded into the magazine, thrown down the bbl by the bolt, and a .40 cal. round manually chambered then fired) The list goes on.

    1. BAP45

      Years ago I was at a range with a buddy so he could rent some pistols to see what he liked. Was trying out one of the “9s” and couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn. Mind you he was a terrible shot to begin with but this was a little ridiculous. So I gave the gun a try. (Want to say sig but i forget what it was) an I’m doing better but still getting a foot size group at 5 yards! Turns out the schuck behind the counter had grabbed a .40 instead of a 9mm. Amazingly no malfunctions other than the bullets bouncing their was down the barrel.
      Granted we should have checked the gun. But in our defense my buddy had asked for a 9mm, the clerk said it was a 9mm and gave him a box of 9mm to go with it.

  15. Tam

    Once upon a time, real revolvers with blanks or primer-powered wax bullets were used for Force-on-Force. Also once upon a time, we used to chain smoke while pregnant and dump raw sewage in rivers.

    Smart people don’t do those things anymore. We know better and have better alternatives now.

  16. Texas Dude

    Simunitions makes rounds for .38s. Every box comes with camber inserts that prevents chambering live rounds (the Simunitions .38 rounds have slightly shorter case lengths). The preferred method is to take revolvers and make them dedicated Simunitions guns, adding the chamber inserts and

    Simunitions also makes a muzzle safe blank round. They are useful for some force-on-force training scenarios. One should not mix munitions types in these events, and in staged events where we used non muzzle safe blanks (because those can be a lot louder), one needs to take some elaborate steps to keep the weapon and blanks out of “play” for the scenario.

    I do not think that doing force-on-force training for a Citizen’s Police Academy is a good idea, and these folks clearly lacked the institutional knowledge to do it safely. I blame the officer slightly less now; he was clearly out of his depth and was probably just doing what he told, with a profound lack of knowledge about what the “right” way to do these things was. His relative ignorance is still no excuse.

    Citizen’s Police Academies can be useful community outreach tools. It can be a good way to familiarize interested members of the community with how their local agency works and help develop better ties with the community. Graduates from ours also do a lot of useful volunteer work for the agency that can free cops up to do their normal work; they do all of the NFA fingerprint cards, for example.

    This whole sordid affair seems to be an example of how NOT to do any of those things. I hope all involved enjoy prison. The incompetent LT needs to be taken out and shot…maybe she will feel remorse and qualify on the 0 foot range.

    1. 11B-Mailclerk

      Some feedback on those .38 Simunitions:

      1) The chamber-blocking inserts are big enough to prevent inserting a live .38 cartridge into a .357 magnum chamber.

      2) If you acquire a used .357, and you cannot get .38s in it, it may have been previously used with Simunitions. The inserts can be driven out with a cleaning rod.

      3) If you have some .38 Short Colt rounds, they are much, much shorter than a .38, about the same length as a 9mm.

      Uh oh…..

      When conducting “Force on Force”, the ideal situation is dedicated non-gun weapons for the event, provided and loaded by the event hosts -only-, and an “everything except the cavity search” frisk for all participants prior to entering the scenario.

      The self-loader marker guns wont chamber live rounds, and the barrel is the wrong size even if someone manages to load a round. The conversion units for live guns are effectively the same.

      The revolver adapters leave you with a fully functional -live- revolver that simply has short chambers. if you manage to load some very short rounds with soft lead bullets, you still have a live gun and ammunition.

      Oops.

  17. Pingback: Tip of the incompetence iceberg | Mojave Desert Patriot

  18. Texas Dude

    Agreed, which is why we don’t tend to use revolvers in force on force training. Dedicated weapons that cannot chamber real ammunition are better, although everyone uses their own carbines with conversion bolts installed, because the expense and difficulty of replicating all of the features and accessories on a customized personally issued carbine, and because our experiences with the 9mm conversion uppers and their magazines was less than stellar; the 5.56mm conversions bolts are much better.

    They have some revolvers in the Armory, but our .38 rounds generally get used with the shotgun or 40mm kits. We prefer the Glock 17T for most everything that calls for a handgun, and we have cases of those.

    For a scenario like they were setting up (and I still wouldn’t do that for a CPA class), the correct way would be to give both parties Glock 17Ts with the “cop” (student) loaded with about 5 marking rounds and wearing eye pro and the “bad guy” loaded with securiblanks and wearing normal force on force PPE-rated face mask, throat and groin protector, soft body armor, long sleeved shirt, pants and gloves (maybe two sets), because panicky rookies are going to shoot you in the hands a lot.

  19. Texas Dude

    Yep. Got the scars to prove it.

    Although each scar probably represents a cop who has an idea what he is doing.

    I know that several folks who have shot me with marking rounds in training, or who have been through scenarios I designed, have won gunfights. So maybe the scars are worth it. Except for that one…

  20. Mike_C

    In contrast to my usual off-topic asides, the abstract from a somewhat relevant article regarding “training” ammunition. Italics for emphasis mine. While this seems to be a sort of “well, duh!” conclusion, I have no doubt there are persons out there who imagine these rounds to be fully “safe” because someone said so.

    American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology. 2015 Sep;36(3):134-7.
    doi: 10.1097/PAF.0000000000000158.
    Special Purpose Short Stop-Type Ammunitions (Hornet, Wasp, Mosquito)-Gelatin Model Investigation.
    Smędra A, Jurczyk AP, Żydek L, Berent J.
    Department of Forensic Medicine, Medical University of Łódź, Łódź, Poland.
    Short Stop-type .38 Mesko Special revolver ammunitions have been designed for incapacitation of humans without causing serious bodily injuries. Three types of those ammunitions differing in increasing amounts of gunpowder in the shell chamber and, consequently, increasing kinetic energy of the projectiles can be distinguished: Komar (Mosquito), Osa (Wasp), and Szerszeń (Hornet), respectively.The aim of this study was to investigate the ballistic features of such projectiles in a gelatin model. Twenty percent gelatin blocks at 10°C were shot at with a caliber .38 ROSSI Special revolver from 5-, 20-, 50-, and 100-cm distances. The deepest penetration was observed in the case of Hornet-type projectiles, which penetrated into the depth of 10 cm even when shot from 100-cm distance. The results of the research demonstrate that none of the projectiles shot at humans from firearms can be regarded as “safe” because the inflicted injuries do not depend solely on the construction of the bullet, but also on the shooting distance. The use of theoretically nonpenetrating Short Stop-type ammunitions at a distance not exceeding 1 m may cause serious injuries, at times even as extensive as those caused by penetrating projectiles.

    What is ShortStop you may ask? From the article:
    Short Stop ammunition consists of a brass shell filled with gunpowder
    charge, equipped with an incendiary primer, and a projectile
    protected by a plastic jacket, containing a rolled-up bag, made of
    strongly woven canvas lined with paper, with a layer of foil, which
    is rip-proof and is strongly bonded on the periphery, filled with tiny
    spherical pellets ca. 1 mm in diameter. The bag is separated from
    the powder charge by a plastic wad. When a shot is fired, the rifled
    bore sets the bag in rotary motion, cutting its jacket at the same
    time. The rotation of the bag causes, as a result of centrifugal force,
    its complete unrolling after leaving the barrel.

    Oh, and to Steve M:
    >the numbers of drug addled people claiming health problems for pain meds?
    I think the quantity is, allowing for rounding, a metric f*ckload.

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