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Gun-Mounted Flashlight Blamed For Fatal Police Shot

Gun-Mounted Flashlight Blamed For Fatal Police Shot

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Dallas Morning News via YellowBrix

November 19, 2010

PLANO, TX – A Plano narcotics sergeant intended to activate a flashlight affixed to his service weapon when he accidentally pulled the trigger, fatally shooting a drug suspect in a Far North Dallas parking lot last month, the officer told investigators.

“I never intended to fire my weapon,” the sergeant said in a statement to Dallas police detectives following the Oct. 13 shooting of suspected drug dealer Michael Anthony Alcala, 25. “I never intended to have my finger on the trigger. I was only attempting to operate the flashlight mechanism.”

The sergeant’s written statement was among more than 200 pages of documents released to The Dallas Morning News in response to a Public Information Act request. The documents pertain to the Dallas police criminal investigation of the shooting.

A Collin County grand jury that was considering manslaughter charges took no action in the case against the sergeant earlier this month. The officer, who remains on administrative leave, is not being identified because he works undercover.

Attorney Bob Gorsky is representing the Plano officer.

“The incident is currently under administrative review by the Plano Police Department,” Gorsky said in an e-mail. “We believe that upon completion of its investigation the police department will agree with the findings of the criminal investigation that this was an accidental discharge.”

An attorney for the Alcala family could not be reached for comment.

The sergeant specifically blamed the placement of a light switch under the trigger guard on his .40-caliber semi-automatic pistol. He said he had in the past carried a “Surefire brand X200 flashlight with pressure switches on each side of the grip of the gun; however this summer the Plano Police Department issued me a Surefire brand X300 flashlight with the pressure switch under the trigger guard and no pressure switch on the grip.”

“This was the only light I was allowed to have affixed to my weapon,” the officer said. “I was attempting to squeeze the light mechanism when my weapon fired and the suspect fell to the ground.”

A call to Surefire was not returned late Thursday. The company website describes it as having “the world’s finest illumination tools and tactical products.”

Officer Rick McDonald, a Plano police spokesman, said the department does not believe there is a problem with the flashlight in question or the way it is activated.

“We have researched them thoroughly,” McDonald said. “Right now, we are standing by these lights.”

The X300 flashlights will be issued to patrol officers soon, McDonald said. Plano officers in the narcotics, intelligence and canine divisions have been using the X200 model or other pistol lights for years.

The patrol officers won’t be given the new lights until they go through training at the gun range. They won’t be issued until next year, and the lights aren’t mandatory, McDonald said.

McDonald said officers should attend training when they receive the new lights. It is unclear whether the officer in the shooting was put through any training when he received the new light.

The newer models have a brighter light and can illuminate a larger area. Most officers who use them leave them on the handguns all the time, McDonald said.

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