What have you heard about the February shooting of a police recruit at a Baltimore training venue? Trainee Raymond Gray was accidentally shot in the head by an police instructor during a scenario-based training exercise.
Officer Scott Kern had retained a live weapon on his person and accidentally deployed it during the exercise. One source reported Officer Kern fired the weapon at the recruit while "trying to scare Gray away from a window." Trainee Gray survived the shooting, although he was critically wounded. He is scheduled to undergo surgery to replace a lost eye in the coming weeks. You can read more on this story by clicking here.
Any injuries sustained in training are regrettable, and everyone involved agrees that Trainee Gray did nothing wrong. We all want him to recover fully and to experience no additional trauma or suffering. He and his family are in our prayers. However, let's take a moment to consider Officer Kern and his experience.
In March, Officer Kern was indicted for 2nd degree assault and reckless endangerment for his role in this incident. Is this justice for anyone concerned? Officer Kern is certainly not the first officer to be suspected of making a mistake. He is also not the first officer to shoot another officer in the head with a loaded weapon by accident during a training exercise. On June 7, 2001, Arlington (TX) Police Corporal Joey Cushman was killed in an almost identical situation. A friend who knew Officer Cushman told me this was a point-blank shot fired as part of the class demonstration before the scenario-based training began. Read more about this incident here.
Officer Kern has been through hell over this incident. He may have made a mistake, but how much intent did he have to cause harm to anyone? Absolutely none. He simply did not realize how important securing all live weapons can be if you are training with Airsoft or Simunitions weapons during scenario-based training. He never imagined, in his worst nightmares, that he would hurt a fellow officer. Does he deserve to go to prison? Absolutely not.
How many of us could have made the same mistake? It could have happened to many of us, eager to jump in and train others, while hurried by the pace of regular life. Officer Kern deserves our understanding and our empathy. I would bet that he has suffered enough over his split-second decision, acting only in the sincere hope of making a training event more realistic for trainees.
Soldier on, Officer Kern. Some of us understand what happened was only a tragic mistake.