Reporting Mike Hellgren
BALTIMORE (WJZ) — So many questions remain unanswered after a police trainee is shot during an exercise.
Mike Hellgren has new insight into what went so wrong.
Guns filled with live rounds are typically not allowed into training. A former police commissioner says he’s shocked by what happened.
An emotional moment as police hold onto each other for strength minutes after an officer was shot in the head during a Baltimore City Police-run training exercise in Owings Mills.
A sweeping investigation by city and Maryland State Police aims to get to the bottom of unanswered questions including how did the incident unfold? Were procedures followed? And why was live ammunition used?
Several sources tell WJZ someone present during training put his service weapon on when going out for lunch, then did not switch it with a simulator weapon when he returned. They reportedly look similar.
Typically, the guns used in tactical training do not have live ammo and are brightly colored. So-called “active shooter” training is physically and mentally demanding, although the bullets are fake.
“It’s train your first responders, equip your first responders and go at an aggressive situation,” said George Tracy, George Mason University Police Chief.
Former Baltimore City Police Commissioner and CBS radio host Ed Norris describes the safety precautions.
“Any tactics training, they take your firearm when you go in. They make you surrender it, surrender your bullets,” said Norris. “So you know that they’re completely safe, they can’t fire on you.”
The injured officer worked with the University of Maryland Baltimore. It is common for smaller departments to train with larger ones.
Serious injuries during training are rare, but not unheard of. Several incidents have happened coast-to-coast over the last four years. In this case, police are looking into the reported absence of high-level supervisors–and that the head of training was unaware the facility was already in use.
“I know some people from the training unit, and they’re devastated right now. It’s hit them very hard,” he continued.
Former Commissioner Norris praised Commissioner Batts for suspending the training at this point. He says you “just can’t continue until you really get to the bottom of what happened, that safety has to be paramount.”
Simulation pellets used for training exercises are similar to paintballs.