screen-shot-2017-03-03-at-5-36-31-pm

A Louisville (KY) police officer is under scrutiny today after cranking off a round into an unarmed black male suspect hiding behind a mattress.

Louisville police have released body camera footage from the shooting of an apparently unarmed black man by a white officer.

Police Chief Steve Conrad identified the man wounded Wednesday as 38-year-old Bruce Lamont Warrick.

The video shows Officer Sarah Stumler, while searching an abandoned house, discovered Warrick behind a mattress leaning up against a wall. The video indicates she shouted for him to show his hands, then fired her gun about a second later.

Conrad said at a news conference Thursday that a search of the house turned up no weapons. He says Stumler and two other officers were responding to a report of a man using drugs in the area.

Authorities said Warrick was in critical condition at a hospital Thursday.

The body camera video below appears to show what may be a negligent discharge.

Three officers had conducted a rather sloppy-looking search from the ground floor to the top floor and were in the process of leaving the scene. The officer in the freeze-frame (below) had already holstered his sidearm and exited the home.

screen-shot-2017-03-03-at-5-33-14-pm

Stumler, about to exit the home next, apparently saw something that made her give a second look at a mattress leaning up against the wall. She steps closer to the wall to get a good look, and immediate sees the outline of a man. She raises her Glock.

screen-shot-2017-03-03-at-5-34-49-pm

She yelled at the man to show his hands, and then roughly a second later fired a single shot.

screen-shot-2017-03-03-at-5-36-31-pm

She then exclaims “Sh*t!” and the holsters her weapon. The officers take Warrick into custody while another officer runs to grab a medical kit and they begin to start treating him as EMS responds.

Officer Stumler was very calm after the shooting, reassuring Warrick that he was going to be okay.

What do I make of this?

I’m reasonably confident that Officer Stumler did not mean to fire her weapon at Bruce Lamont Warrick. I’ve covered several negligent discharge shootings of suspects by officers in recent years, and it is my strong suspicion that this was another one. Her muzzle dipped right before the shot broke, and it is my suspicion that she was attempting to activate her weapon-mounted light (which she had been using to search the home) and “accidentally” pressed the trigger on her Glock instead.

That allowed, I don’t think this shooting is going to result in discipline for the officer.

Why?

Three points:

  1. Officer Stumler was justified in pointing her firearm at Warrick, an unknown threat hiding from police who had identified themselves.
  2. Officer Stumler only said “Sh*t!” and said nothing that sounded like an apology or an admission of fault as we’ve seen in other officer-involved negligent discharge incidents.
  3. Officer Stumler merely needs to claim that she saw furtive movement after she told him to put his hands up, and that she viewed him as a threat, and meant to shoot.

As long as Stumler maintains that she meant to fire, this will likely be ruled a justifiable shooting. Only she was in a position to know for sure if this was a negligent discharge, and while I have my suspicions, no one can have hard evidence that it was unless she volunteers the information.