A Los Angeles Times analysis of two decades of police records found that since 1985, there have been more than 350 accidental discharges by Los Angeles police officers. There also have been more than a dozen so-called friendly fire incidents. Though the resulting wounds tended to be less serious than in gun battles with suspects, scores of officers and more than two dozen suspects and bystanders have been injured in incidents that department officials blame on careless handling of firearms.
Last month, an officer’s 3-year-old son got hold of his father’s 9-millimeter service handgun as they sat in a pickup truck at a traffic light. When the child pulled the trigger, a bullet passed through the officer and left him paralyzed from the waist down. Over the last five years, the number of accidents has declined – as have all types of officer-involved shootings – but such incidents still accounted for about a third of all gunshot injuries sustained by officers. One off-duty officer shot himself in a leg as he sat behind his desk and, according to department records, contemplated “a complex mathematical problem.” Another officer inadvertently pulled the trigger when his African gray parrot flew into his face. One officer accidentally shot his girlfriend in a leg while trying to retrieve a cartridge from his handgun as a “memento” of their date.