Shot fired by officer was ‘accidental’

An investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) into a non-fatal police shooting in Bournemouth last year has found a single shot fired by a Dorset Police firearms officer that injured a man was accidental.

Dec 23, 2019
By Paul Jacques

The IOPC said it found “no indication that any police officer had committed a criminal offence, or behaved in a manner that would justify disciplinary proceedings”.

As part of a pre-planned operation to arrest a man on suspicion of an assault with a knife, armed officers from Dorset Police carried out a stop on a black Mercedes car on Castle Lane West in Bournemouth at around 8.20pm on August 7, 2018. The suspect was a passenger in the vehicle.

During the stop an armed officer placed their hand on the handle of the driver’s door to open it, at which point the Mercedes moved off. The vehicle’s movement caused the officer to involuntarily discharge their already drawn Glock pistol through the car window, with the bullet hitting the driver in the arm. Officers gave the injured man first aid immediately after the shooting, prior to the arrival of paramedics.

“We examined the planning for the Dorset Police operation as well as the events of the evening itself,” said the IOPC. “We considered force and national policies on armed policing deployments, the detailed rationale for the arrest strategy and the steps taken by police to mitigate any risks to those involved and the public, including the location and timing of the stop. The stop was carried out at a point where no members of the public were in the immediate vicinity, and the Mercedes had slowed to a crawl close to a roundabout.”

It added that the officers involved were all treated as witnesses throughout the investigation.

IOPC Regional Director Catrin Evans said the “potentially lethal discharge of a weapon” by a firearms officer had merited its investigation after the incident was referred to it by Dorset Police.

“We found the police stop was planned carefully with steps taken to mitigate risks to those involved and the public,” she added. “Decision-making around the stop was done in accordance with force and national policies on armed policing deployments. We are satisfied the shot fired by a Dorset Police officer into the car window was unintentional, and brought about by the Mercedes moving off.”

While no concerns were raised about the performance of the officer who fired the shot, Ms Evans said Dorset Police has advised that prior to returning to full duties, the officer successfully completed refresher armed response training.

“At the conclusion of our independent investigation in December 2018 we communicated our findings to Dorset Police and the solicitor of the injured man,” said Ms Evans. “Issuing our findings publicly has awaited the outcome of any criminal proceedings concerning the driver of the Mercedes, which have now been discontinued. The man travelling as a passenger in the car, arrested on suspicion of assault causing grievous bodily harm, was found not guilty at Bournemouth Crown Court in November this year.”

Dorset Police Assistant Chief Constable Julie Fielding said: “We worked extensively with the IOPC and Crown Prosecution Service to ascertain the facts of this incident. A full debrief will now take place into the events of the night to review the response and to see if there are any learning points that can be identified.

“Thankfully such incidents are rare in Dorset and we wish to provide assurance that all of our officers and specialist officers undertake regular training in accordance with national standards to ensure that their skills remain current. This includes learning from all incidents.”

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