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Plano Case Spotlights the Danger of Flashlights Strapped to Cop Guns: People Get Shot

The Dallas Morning News is helping spread the word this week about the dangers of a new gizmo that police departments around the country are using: the flashlight strapped onto a police pistol, its lens directly beneath the barrel of the gun.  More and more police departments are using these things.

 Problem is, like the Plano Police Department is all too aware, is that it’s all too easy for a cop in the street to trip the trigger instead of the light switch.  (Check out a photo of one these StarWarsesque light-pistols here.) Innocent people can get shot if the policeman makes a mistake and shoots a bullet instead of a light beam.  And they are. 

The family of Michael Anthony Alcala, 25, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Collin County against the Plano Police Department of the City of Plano, claiming that there are several negligent acts for which Plano is responsible that led to the death of their husband, son, and dad.  What happened? 

Last October, Mr. Alcala was shot down in a fast food restaurant parking lot (a Jack in the Box on North Dallas Tollway), dying sometime later at the hospital, after a Plano cop drew his Springfield .40-caliber semi-automatic pistol and shot by mistake as he was trying to turn on the gun’s attached SureFire X300 flashlight. (This, according to affidavits on file with the Dallas Police Department as reported by the Plano Star-Courier.)

These gun mount flashlights aren’t expensive: you take your pick from several products online.  In fact, these gizmos are promoted to police departments as being helpful: Streamlight markets its gun mounted flashlight to law enforcement customers as being lighter in “tactical situations” and “easier to handle and more importantly, provide significantly clearer identification of the target.”

Here’s the question:  how easy is it for a cop to make this kind of tragic mistake like the Plano death of Mr. Alcala?  And, to be fair, is this really a police negligence situation — or do we have a defective product here?  Gotta wonder.

One thing’s for sure:  be very nice and move really slowly after dark in Plano, Texas, if the cops stop you. 

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