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Flashlights on Guns Linked to Accidental Shooting Deaths

June 9, 2014 — Gun-mounted flashlights have been linked to at least five accidental police shootings since 2009, according to an investigation by The Denver Post.

Tactical flashlights were originally developed for use by Navy SEALs, but in recent years they have become popular in civilian law enforcement. Some products in the SureFire X-Series are designed with a push-button mounted below the trigger. SureFire also manufactures gun-mounted flashlights that are activated by squeezing the grip on the pistol.

The Post described several instances in which police officers — often in high-pressure situations — accidentally shot and killed civilians or other police officers when they were only trying to turn on the flashlight. However, there is no way of knowing how many incidents have occurred because they are not tracked nationally.

One of these incidents, reported by the Associated Press in January 2012, involved the death of Michael Alcala, 25, in Plano, Texas. He was shot and killed in 2010 during a drug bust. The officer testified that he did not mean to pull the trigger. Alcala’s family filed a lawsuit against the city of Plano and received a settlement of $245,000.

The Post talked to Steve Ijames, a retired police chief who conducts training programs, officers should shine a gun-mounted flashlight to one side of the suspect:

“You can’t just point guns at people because you have a flashlight. … I’ve seen officers use a flashlight-mounted gun to help a person search their wallet for a driver’s license. I’ve literally seen that on a traffic stop.”

Despite a growing number of incidents, the rules and training requirements for tactical flashlights vary widely. Denver’s police chief has banned flashlights with switches below the trigger guard, but the police department in Aurora allows them. The Los Angeles Police Department requires a training course on tactical flashlights and a night-qualification shooting test.

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