Elk Grove News

Two officers injured in accidental crossfire a rare incident, state data show

See scene where two Elk Grove police officers were shot

Two officers were shot and injured by one another while apprehending a burglary suspect in Elk Grove on Saturday night
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Two officers were shot and injured by one another while apprehending a burglary suspect in Elk Grove on Saturday night

While apprehending a suspect Saturday night, two Elk Grove police officers fired their weapons at the suspect but got caught in their own crossfire, accidentally injuring each other, the department said.

One officer received a gunshot wound to his leg, and the second officer had a “deep graze” wound to his leg, said Officer Jason Jimenez, spokesman for the Elk Grove Police Department.

According to data from the California Department of Justice, incidents of officer friendly fire are infrequent. The data shows an officer was shot by another officer at least four times in 2017, but the circumstances surrounding those incidents are unclear, based on the California Department of Justice’s records.

“Training and protocol would suggest ... to avoid all situations (of crossfire), but police work can be dynamic and fluid,” Jimenez said. This was one of those times where everything happened so quickly.”

Ed Obayashi, use-of-force training adviser to California Police Training Managers Association and a Plumas County sheriff’s deputy, said officers are trained to not put themselves in a position where they could get caught in crossfire.

The two officers responded to a 911 call around 11 p.m. Saturday reporting an armed man who was trying to break into a travel trailer hooked to a pickup truck. The caller told the dispatcher they saw the man move a firearm from a pants pocket to his sweatshirt, according to the news release.

The first officer arrived and asked the man to sit on a curb, but as the second officer arrived, the man allegedly bolted. The first officer gave chase on foot and the second officer remained in his patrol vehicle and followed the pursuit, Jimenez said. The second officer “was in sight of the foot pursuit most of the time,” Jimenez said.

When the chase ended a short distance away in the parking lot of a shopping center, the two officers stood on either side of the man, according to the news release. The man allegedly moved toward the second officer with his hands headed toward his sweatshirt pocket. The officers drew their weapons and fired. The man and the two officers were injured by the gunshots.

A loaded firearm was found in the man’s possession, the news release said.

“Officers are trained to be aware of the situation, to be aware of the surroundings, so as not to place themselves in that position,” Obayashi said. “If they had their guns drawn, that’s what we train against from day one.”

“Based on this information the officers had, they would have been justified in having their guns drawn directly at him and giving commands, but at the same time not be in a position where they could wind up shooting each other,” he said. “Something unfortunate happened here.”

“The recommended or preferred method is that you’re at a right angle or out of the line of fire,” he added.

Jimenez said the two officers have not yet been interviewed and the investigation will trace the trajectory of the rounds that were fired.

Investigators also do not yet know if the man pulled his weapon on the officers, he said.

“As of right now, we don’t really know what happened other than that they were both hit,” he said. “It wasn’t reckless, it wasn’t careless and tactically it wasn’t ideal.”