Prosecuted for a Negligent Discharge

Written by Greg Ellifritz

Topics: News and Tactical Advice

  • SumoMe

Written by: Greg Ellifritz



Read this article.  An NYPD officer just got convicted of both manslaughter and official misconduct after an accidental shooting that occurred on his SECOND DAY of patrol.


For all my cop friends and those who want to be cops. Study this case.


Here’s the deal…


I don’t know ANY academies ANYWHERE in the country that turn out competent gunfighters upon graduation. I was the best shooter in my academy class, but looking back, I didn’t know SHIT about shooting when I graduated the police academy. I took the initiative to seek out quality professional firearms training on my own time and my own dime. Most cops will never do that. Consequently, most cops NEVER become truly competent shooters. Those who do, learn the skills on their own DESPITE their police training, not BECAUSE of it. Police firearms training is universally abysmal (with a few very small exceptions).


It doesn’t surprise me that this cop screwed up and shot someone. It actually surprises me that it doesn’t happen more often. The problem we are seeing now is that society is far less tolerant of such “accidents” and is willing to hold officers accountable for their actions.  Where previously, police departments would pay big money to settle a civil suit and the officer would not be criminally charged, now we are seeing a change.  Courts are holding officers criminally responsible for their actions (as they should).


So all of us cops are put in a trick bag. We are held to a professional standard, but our agencies will not provide the training necessary to live up to that standard. This won’t end well for anyone, especially the officer on the street just trying to do a good job.


There are three choices that you have:

1) Ignore the problem. Bury your heads in the sand and hope such a tragedy doesn’t happen to you.

2) Demand quality training (which will never happen) and leave the profession when you don’t get it.

3) Seek out competent instructors on your own time and learn the skills you need to adequately function with a gun in your hand.


Most officers will choose option number one.  More and more of those will end up in jail or fired if they depend on the “training” their agencies provide.


The smart officers will choose option number two and leave the profession.  The deck is stacked against them and they realize it.  If they have other options, they will exercise them.  That leaves the dumb officers and the ones without other job prospects to protect us all from the criminals.  Society loses.


A few officers will choose option three, become competent with their firearms and not have any problems.  But this choice takes time, effort, and money.  It will be a very small number of officers who will pursue it.


My advice for the police officers reading this?  Get out of the profession if you have a chance.  This job is becoming exponentially more difficult and will continue to do so in the future.


If you do choose to continue on as a cop, you MUST choose option three.  You don’t recognize it, but your agency does not have your best interests in mind.  The training they provide will not keep you out of jail.  You have to seek out training on your own or there’s a chance that you will end up in handcuffs like this NYPD officer.


If any of you non-cops are still reading, what do you think cases like this portend for the armed citizen?  You don’t get a pass.  If courts are willing to convict on duty police officers for accidental shootings, what do you think they’ll do to a person with a CCW permit?  Yes, expect more prosecutions if you screw up.


Look at it this way.  Police firearms training is certainly inadequate, but it is generally TEN TIMES longer than the average CCW class.  Most police academies dedicate somewhere between 60 and 80 hours to firearms training.  If cops with 80+ hours of training are screwing up, why do you think you will be fine with your four to eight hour CCW class?


You need more training too.  Seek it out.  I don’t want to see any of my readers behind bars.





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21 Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. Mike Mckay says:

    An intesting article but some other possible and potentially dire consequences of the lack of training being provided is that many people who might have wanted to become police officers and might have been good ones are likely to change their mind the more they see officers being held accountable for their mistakes as well as some who wont even bother to try and get better training via any route, but who will just see this kind of thing as a sign of where things are heading in the future and will just leave instead neither of which are good outcomes and with the increasing budget cuts its far more likely to get worse before it gets any better

    • Sam Kersh says:

      Many PDs train their officers to rely on the phrase, “I feared for my life.” All too often this gets the officer off an a very bad shooting. Is in the process of happening here in San Antonio as I write. Last week an SAPD officer shot and killed an unarmed man. Yes, the man had a record but that doesn’t justify his execution. The official story is that there was a traffic stop which went bad. The officer ordered the man out of his vehicle and the victim complied. The officer saw the victim had something in his hand and emptied his GLOCK. Turned out it was a firearm but was a cell phone. The officer is riding a desk and that looks like that’s as far as it’s going to go. If this had been a shooting by a CHL holder he most likely would be either in jail or out on an extremely high bond and facing manslaughter as a minimum.

      • Mike Mckay says:

        As I understand the law though wouldn’t an armed civilian simply be able to claim they felt threatened even if they didn’t and weren’t and get off with the murder in that way?

        I’ve read countless stories of people with no training or common sense either shooting people or shooting at them in public spaces with little to no justification who haven’t even been charged by hiding behind such excuses and as far as I know without even losing their carry permit or ability to own weapons

        • Sam Kersh says:

          Yes, an armed civilian can and should claim they felt threatened and feared bodily harm or death. Some states have required retreat but in recent years “stand your ground” laws have become more common. I don’t know where you are, Mike, but here in Texas and even with our “stand your ground” law you will face possible arrest and there will be an investigation. The severity of investigation will depend greatly on the local DA’s attitude toward CHL and self defense. Regardless of the outcome there will be lawyers and grand jury proceedings AND the knowledge that “you” may have killed another human being.

          • Sian says:

            It is dependent on *reasonable* belief of threat. You can’t just plug someone because they looked scary.

            The Stand Your Ground laws do explicitly just one thing: remove a duty to retreat from an already legitimate deadly/great bodily harm threat outside your home.

          • Mike Mckay says:

            Theres a big difference though between the essence of a law and its daily application.

            Whilst researching firearms recently I came across many cases where very unskilled and clearly untrained or poorly trained civillians discharged fire arms in populated places when under no threat, even at unarmed people fleeing a scene (shoplifters mainly) and where the stores own security staff were already in pursuit

            None hit anyone, not even the criminals luckily, but none were even charged either despite the clear risk to innocent civillians in the vicinity

            I get that a lot of scenarios will be as cloudy as a rape accusation where its a he said/she said type situation. But even when there was clearly and undeniably no risk whatsoever it seems that the authorities are reluctant to prosecute irresponsible gun owners

        • Greg Ellifritz says:

          It doesn’t quite work that way. Oftentimes, the people that armed citizens shoot (even accidentally) are criminals. They don’t cooperate with the police. We need the victim’s cooperation to successfully prosecute.

          The legal standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt” is what we have to prove in court. We (as cops) often know the shooter screwed up, but being able to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt is very difficult if the shooter tells a convincing story and the victim doesn’t cooperate. In those cases, the shooters generally don’t get charged.

      • Trevor says:

        I am not of any PD that train their officers to rely on the phrase “I was in fear for my life.” Every PD I know teaches the constitutional standard which is objective reasonableness. Could you provide the name of a single PD that teaches subjective reasonableness? I am not sure you even understand the difference between expecting people to purposely and pro-actively confront armed individuals as a profession and citizens who may encounter an armed criminal in a self defense situation. I train both. Sounds like you are both biased and uninformed.

        • Sam Kersh says:

          Trevor, believe what you like. We currently have and investigation that the DA predicts will take months where an SAPD officer killed an unarmed man. His defense so far has been, “I feared for my life.”

          If that makes me “biased and uninformed,” so be it.

          • Trevor says:

            You clearly don’t understand use of force and clearly can’t substantiate your accusation that police departments simply teach officers to rely on the phrase ” I was in fear for my life.” You had an opportunity

            Here is the quote from the link you provided:” The officer told investigators that Scott spun around as the officer approached him and that he believed Scott was holding a gun.” He was also being arrested for fel

            I think your bias, ignorance, and deceit are cleary established.

          • Sam Kersh says:

            Wow! I amazed that what was supposed to be a civil discussion turned into a shower of insults for a person who claimed to be a trainer. I stand by what I wrote; many PDs do train their officers to claim they feared for their life. Here’s a stated from CLEO of SAPD:


            “The officer quickly approached and told Scott to “let me see your hands,” then almost immediately fired his service weapon, according to McManus.

            “It was in the blink of an eye,” McManus said. “I listened to the audio, I watched the tape, and it happened very, very quickly.”

            McManus said the officer, identified as John Lee, told investigators that Scott spun around quickly and that, believing Scott was holding a gun, feared for his life.”

          • Mike Mckay says:

            To be fair though, the fact he said it doesn’t prove that the department preps their officers in advance for such an occurrence. It wouldn’t take much for individual officers to figure it out themselves or even discuss similar claims when they doubt the truth of the claim already having it at the back of their mind if they find themselves in a similar situation

            So although its not impossible, especially in smaller close knit departments its not going to be very likely its done in a widespread fashion or I would bet someone would have leaked a recording or video of it by now if that was the case

  2. Mike Mckay says:

    Actually I forgot one, officers hesitating too much in potentially dangerous situations because of things like this and then getting shot as a result of that hesitation

  3. Old 1811 says:

    A colleague of mine attended a tactical training course, back in the 90s, that was taught by retired NYPD officers. They stated at the time that when a NYPD officer is killed, NYPD’s response is to hire a new one. But every bullet that leaves a cop’s gun on the street costs the city $8800 (probably 20 grand today). So dead cops are the cheaper option.
    After shooting my most recent LEOSA qual next to a retired NYPD officer, I have no problem believing any of this.
    I loved my job, but it looks like I retired at just the right time.

    • Kendahl says:

      That’s the same stance many businesses take with respect to employee and customer safety.

      • Sharon says:

        A relatively unknown fact is that the American healthcare system is exactly the same. They provide no training AT ALL. Any training I have received in my decade of service to the public was bought and paid for by me in my “spare” time. Some of us routinely work 14 hour shifts, and nearly every shift has inadequate staff to do the job carefully. We either rush through, skip steps, and throw it together, or patients wait even longer to get this half-assed care. When I finally fall into bed, I may be woken up to handle an urgent situation (once again…..inadequate staffing by corporate healthcare providers watching their bonuses). I handle deadly meds and procedures every day while clinically exhausted and constantly interrupted. Yet, if we have a bad outcome, I will be sued regardless of whether I made a mistake, and criminally charged and publicly vilified if it appears that I did make one. So, if cops are forced to leave that noble line of public service, heads up, medical service shares some of these pitfalls. Good luck.

  4. Mark Lewandoske HM2/USN Ret says:

    While I really feel that this new officer was punished to the extreme, it is only because many more have gotten away with unnecessary or extreme use of force. His was an very unfortunate accident, something I witnessed on a monthly bases while deployed in Afghanistan, but had never occurred in a death. They crucified this guy to the full extent because they were allowed to and his department hung him out to dry and put him in the position with poor training. While officers that show excessive or uncalled for force are vindicated because their fear got in the way of sound judgement. Their departments let them off the hook, calling it justified.

    When 6 officers, pump 27 bullets into a kid, 10-15 feet away from them, passing and agitated holding a small knife are all justified, because all 6 felt threatened…. Shows poor training and unnecessary use of their weapon. The poor kid was threatened the entire time with 6 guns pointed at him, but the citizen’s right to feel threatened is not justified but the cop’s were? This again is what angers and has cause many to no longer support law enforcement.

  5. Greyson says:


    Would you happen to know, off hand, if officers who spend their own money on training can write that off on their taxes? I know that doesn’t get a person their full amount back, but, if possible, it beats nothing. I’m not a cop, so I don’t have any stake in the answer; I’m just curious.

    • Greg Ellifritz says:

      Yes they can. If they are writing the expenses off against standard W-2 police income, the work related expenses have to exceed 2% of their adjusted gross income before any deductions can be made.

      If cops work side jobs as contractors, they can deduct the entire amount against their Schedule C income.

  6. Ed G says:

    I think this is sad all around. A lot of good people get hung out by the local DA who is looking to take scalps. Some think police officers are experts with firearms but many only shoot when range qualification time comes around. At the NRA HQs range we had local and federal LEOs all the time. Some were superb shooters but many were there because they had to brush up. Nothing beats practice and training. Society should invest in their police and in places like NYC they should get a year of supervised training. Not going to happen but the job of a police officer is more complex than running a Berger King. Interesting how many police officers take training from the top firearm trainers around the country on their own dime.

  7. Jon says:

    Just a factual point. Liang was hired in Jan 2013. The shooting was in November of 2014. It wasn’t his second day. He had 11 months of patrol time at the time of the shooting.

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