Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Elite cops from NYPD's Emergency Service Unit fire three stray rounds in three months
In an embarrassing series of mistakes, cops from the NYPD's elite Emergency Service Unit shot off three stray rounds in three months - including one in Rockefeller Center.
A member of the ESU sniper team safeguarding the tree-lighting center at the tourist magnet accidentally let loose a rifle round on Nov. 30.
It happened about 90 minutes after the ceremony, as the sniper teams were pulling out. The round hit a building and was found a block and a half away.
Four days earlier, an ESU detective getting out of his vehicle to respond to a report of a barricaded gunman accidentally fired a shotgun in Harlem.
The blast went through an apartment window on W. 136th St. As in the Rockefeller Center incident, no one was injured.
In the latest incident, a 76-year-old man was shot in the stomach during a Jan. 22 drug raid in the Bronx.
ESU cops were trying to arrest Alberto Colon, 41, when a detective trying to activate the flashlight on his weapon accidentally fired it, hitting the suspect's father.
The NYPD has reviewed all the firings and found that none of the weapons malfunctioned, said Chief Charles Kammerdener, head of the Special Operations Division.
The ESU discharges represent a small percentage of accidental firings in the NYPD.
There were 23 department-wide in 2009, only one of which involved a member of ESU. Last year there were 23 accidental discharges, including the two ESU incidents in November.
ESU officers, who pride themselves on their ability to pull off difficult raids and rescues, say the three incidents were the result of a cut in weapons training - specifically a week-long shooting exercise at Camp Smith or Fort Dix.
As a result of the Rockefeller Center mishap, sharpshooter training has been revised to highlight the weapon's safety position, officials said.
Police brass said ESU training has not taken a hit.
"ESU has never received more training that it has now, because of the terrorist incidents around the world and the fact that they are the front line of an NYPD response," Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Browne said.
"So to try to make such a connection is disingenuous."