Training is a very important thing for law enforcement, but sometimes it seems that there’s just not enough of the right kind of training. Police are placed in tough situations on a regular basis, and a single mistake can be devastating for everyone involved.
Kind of like the situation that recently happened in Georgia.
According to a video released by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Baldwin County Deputy Charles Gillis shot an 18-year-old in the arm when the officer mistakenly drew his service weapon instead of his Taser.
Gillis was at the scene of a domestic disturbance between a mother and her son when the incident occurred. The mother called police to report the disturbance after her son struck her in the face, according to The Union-Recorder.
In the video, officers can be seen congregating around the suspect who began resisting them.
One of the officers shouted, “Taser, Taser!” but in a split second, Gillis realized that he’d pulled his gun and shot the young man in the arm instead of using his Taser on the suspect.
Gillis was visibly upset by what happened, yelling, “Oh my God! God dang it!”
Gillis was placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation, which is par for the course in a situation like this. It doesn’t help that this took place in an era where tensions between the black community and law enforcement are extremely high.
Baldwin County Sheriff Bill Massee spoke with the local NAACP chapter about the incident.
Massee answered, “Well, I’m sorry this happened to the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office, but I don’t think this is the first time that this has occurred where someone has grabbed his firearm as opposed to a Taser.”
“People wear the Taser on what we called the off-hand side and wear their weapon on the good side. We do that, to be real honest with you, we do that so people won’t do what this deputy did and that is to grab his firearm,” Massee explained.
“That is not what happened in this circumstance,” he added. “The deputy did not go to his weak side hand. He pulled his service weapon and thought he was shooting a Taser and shot him [with his gun].”
A detective with the sheriff stated he didn’t believe it was racial, and there’s no indication of racial motivation on the video. Further, Deputy Gillis is clearly upset by what just happened. The young man isn’t dead, just wounded, yet he’s just as upset.
Of course, it’s impossible to know what goes on in someone’s head, but this case seems a clearcut incident of an accident that shouldn’t have happened, but it did.
I can’t help but wonder just what kind of training the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Department has on drawing their taser versus drawing their weapons. Under stress, it’s not hard to imagine Gillis reverting to muscle memory and drawing the tool he’s drawn far, far more: his firearm.
Whether that’s the case or not remains to be seen, and I don’t mean to cast any aspersions on anyone. I’ve spent a fair bit of time in Baldwin County, and it’s a fairly sleepy college town or, at least, was when I was visiting regularly. It’s not likely they have an extensive training budget. I have little doubt they try and do the best they can with what they have.
Here’s hoping they can learn from this, that the injured young man can recover, and Deputy Gillis will be psychologically OK as well.