Tuesday's Metro Police shooting was not just unusual in that it was the first fatal shooting in the agency's history, but in that a bystander was injured as well. While we wait for more details to emerge from HPD, which is leading the investigation, Hair Balls checked in with a criminology expert about the incidence of bystander shootings.

"It's just a rare phenomenon," says David Klinger,  a professor of criminology at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. "...Police officers are trained to take into consideration what we call their 'background' - what's behind what I'm shooting at. Oftentimes, police officers are able to...structure encounters so that their background is clear."

A former patrol officer in L.A. and Redmond, Washington, Klinger is the author of In the Kill Zone: A Cop's Eye View of Deadly Force. He was also a professor of sociology at the University of Houston.

Bystander Hit During A Police Shooting: Pretty Rare, Expert Says

Unfortunately, Klinger says, there are times when a clear background is just not possible, and an officer has to shoot.

"You can't have an absolute prohibition on that, because if you did, that would give the bad guys a huge advantage," he tells Hair Balls. "They would just make sure they stood in front of somebody as they were trying to kill a police officer or someone else, and then the officer couldn't shoot them."

The Metro Police Department is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, says Metro Assistant Chief of Police Tim Kelly. In order for an agency to be CALEA-accredited, it must be in line with that body's 462 accreditation standards.

Kelly read us the standard on deadly force, which states that an officer "may use deadly force only when the officer reasonably believes the action is in defense of human life, including the officer's own life, or in defense of any person in immediate danger of serious physical injury."

We're hoping HPD will soon be able to fill us in on details such as how far away the bystander was from the police and the knife-wielding assailant. We'll be back with more.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories


All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >