A Pennsylvania prosecutor said he decided not to charge a police officer for shooting a suspect in the stomach — because the officer believed he had been deploying his Taser instead of firing his gun.
Buck County District Attorney Matthew Weintrub said in a statement that the shooting “was neither justified, nor criminal, but was excused.”
The officer, who has not been identified, had violated department policies by wearing his Taser on his right side during the shooting, just in front of his firearm.
“This violation of policy, however, does not constitute a violation of law,” the district attorney’s office said in a statement.
“This was an honest mistake, with an unfortunate consequence,” Weintraub told the local ABC affiliate WPVI.
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The March 3 incident occurred after officers struggled with the suspect, Brian Riling, in a holding cell over a bag of drugs.
Footage of the incident shows that the officer yells “Taser!” while reaching towards his right side, withdrawing his gun and shooting Riling in the stomach.
The district attorney’s office said Riling was treated by other officers, rushed to hospital, and was held in critical condition for several days. He has since been released.
The office said that the officer would have been justified in using his Taser to regain control of Riling, since he had reasonable fear that the struggle could put his fellow officer in danger. The office added that using a gun should have been the “last resort.”
“Because the officer believed he was deploying his Taser and not wielding his service firearm, he did not possess the criminal mental state required to be guilty of a crime under state law,” the statement said.