Investigating taser-gun confusion after ‘accidental’ Minnesota police shooting

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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WJW) — The FOX 8 I-Team has found how police in NE Ohio try to prevent the kind of deadly mix-up which led to a police shooting in Minnesota which has led to a national uproar.

In that case, police say an officer may have accidentally fired a gun instead of a taser killing Daunte Wright.

So, we investigated how local police try to make sure what happened there doesn’t happen here.

Euclid police showed us how easily a gun and a taser could be confused.

Euclid Police Captain Mitch Houser held up a black taser. And, he said, “…And as you can see, it looks a lot like the glock pistol we also issue our officers.”

So, he said Euclid Police do regular training. And, they’ve been moving toward yellow tasers.

Plus, officers there have to carry tasers away from their guns making it harder to pull one or the other by mistake. They wear a taser on their other hip or on a vest.

Captain Houser showed us how a taser might be clipped on a vest and he said, “They’d have to contort their body unnaturally to be able to draw it.”

He added, “Most officers wear it on the opposite side of their body. Has to be worn in such a way, so they’d have to draw it with their strong-side hand.”

We also checked with law enforcement throughout NE Ohio about their policies on tasers even pulling up some body camera video of a recent Cleveland police encounter with a suspect. 

An officer shouted, “You’re gonna get shot!”

Cleveland police sent us a detailed policy for tasers. Among the CPD rules, officers have to carry a taser in a holster on the opposite side from where they’re carrying a gun.

Same thing for the Ohio State Highway Patrol. Sgt. Ray Santiago shared highway patrol policies with us and he pointed out, troopers have to test their tasers every day. That way, they’re also handling their tasers every day.

Euclid Police also showed us the pop of a gunshot and the pop of a taser might even sound similar at a chaotic scene. Another reason for the yellow tasers. If bystanders see an officer fire a yellow taser, they are not as likely to think an officer is firing a gun.

Many reasons for all those policies. All that training.

Captain Houser added, “Anytime you’re under any kind of stress, your ability to see what’s going on around you is going to be altered.”

So much can go wrong quickly when police use force, so much goes into trying to make sure they get it right.

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