FRESNO, Calif. – Firearms are ingrained into the culture of law enforcement, probably more so than other tools used in the business. The number of weapons handled by cops everyday are in the millions. Since due diligence is applied, the accidental discharges are few. Yet occasionally, we hear about one that brings enormous grief.
That was the case this week in Fresno. A 20-year veteran sheriff’s deputy in Central California was killed by a bullet in the chest from a colleague’s gun in what officials said Tuesday appeared to be “a tragic accidental shooting.”
Deputy Sgt. Rod Lucas was having a conversation with a detective about how to carry their backup weapons when the shot was fired Monday, Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims said. The incident occurred at a sheriff’s office near the Fresno Yosemite International Airport.
Mims said Lucas, 46, and the detective were in a room with two other colleagues and there was no dispute, just a conversation about weapons safety.
“The detective had his weapon out. During this discussion, the detective’s weapon discharged,” the sheriff said. “Sgt. Lucas was struck by the bullet in his chest, and he dropped to the ground.”
Lucas was rushed to the hospital, but he was pronounced dead at the Community Regional Medical Center.
The type of firearm used was not disclosed. It was simply referred to as a “back-up” weapon.
“We do not know yet the mechanics of how the weapon discharged,” Mims said. “So far, we have absolutely no reason to believe this was anything more than a tragic accidental shooting.”
A few pundits have taken jabs at law enforcement due to this incident, and other accidental discharges. They lack understanding and the routine discipline used by LEO’s when handling firearms.
Walk through any office in America and ask how many employees have sustained a paper cut. Every hand would go up. This is because we do not view paper as lethal, yet given the right circumstances something as innocuous as a piece of paper has injured people. It can slice the skin and make us search for the Neosporin and a band-aid. We point this out because accidents happen!
When two cars crash, traffic officers call them “collisions,” but the public refer to them as “accidents.” Why? Because they are not “intentional.”
Make no mistake, the death of Sgt. Lucas is tragic. We feel sympathy for his family. The misfortune has surely wounded them.
Yet the unnamed detective will suffer as well. He or she will bear the burden of the catastrophic event. And for that we have empathy … because the indicators seem to declare this was an “accident.”